The police department's overdue report on the effectiveness of speed cameras is complete and is expected to show a more than 51 percent decrease in citations issued, according to one Baltimore County Councilman.
Todd Huff, a 3rd District Republican, said today that police Chief Jim Johnson told him in a phone call Thursday evening that the report "shows a 51 percent decrease" in citations.
Huff said he was told the official report only includes statistics through early November.
Earlier this week, in response to a request from Patch, the county released statistics showing the number of citations issued from May 3 to Nov. 30. An analysis of those statistics showed a 40 percent decrease in the number of citations issued for all of November when compared to August.
Police officials were not immediately available for comment.
Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman, said she had not seen the police department's official report and could not comment on it.
Based on the statistics supplied to Patch, a 51 percent drop in speed camera citations can be found when comparing tickets issued in August, the first month that all 15 cameras were operational, and tickets issued in October, the third month of operation for the cameras.
In August, the county issued 14,068 citations, the largest monthly amount of tickets since the program began with just two cameras in May 2010. The other 13 cameras were put into service during the last week of July.
In October, the county issued 6,795. That figure, the lowest monthly amount of tickets for all 15 cameras, represents a 51.7 percent decrease in citations compared to the August statistics.
In November, citations jump to 8,465, which is 40 percent lower when compared to the August statistics.
It is unclear if the police department is comparing August to October when Chief Johnson talks about a 51 percent decline.
What is also unclear is why the department is not using all of November's data or if that information has been amended in some way for the final report to the council.
The report being prepared by police was due to the council in October—a requirement imposed by the council when it approved a law allowing the devices in September 2009.
Johnson said Wednesday he delayed compiling the report because the program had only been fully operational for a few months.
The statistics quoted by Huff would be consistent with Johnson's claims in December that the cameras are generating positive results.
"Speed cameras have proven to actually alter driver behavior," Johnson told the council during his Dec. 14 confirmation hearing. "In fact, speed camera violations are down nearly 50 percent since we installed the 15 units countywide."
(Listen to Johnson's Dec. 14 response to council questions on speed cameras.)
But Johnson, in an interview on Wednesday, told Patch.com that initially he was "led to believe (the 50 percent decrease) was overall" but that his statements were meant to be reflective of reports he was given on one camera in Dundalk.
Later in the interview, Johnson said his Dec. 14 statement did not reflect an overall decrease.
"When we used the figure of 50 percent, we were using particular cameras," Johnson said. "I didn't have knowledge, holistically, of all the cameras. I was referring to specific cameras."
Huff, who opposes the use of the cameras and a bill to expand their use, said published reports in Patch.com and statements made by Johnson touting the success of the program are inconsistent.
"I don't think the numbers are reliable," Huff said. "I'm a businessman. We don't have enough data. We need at least 12-18 months to really know what the real numbers are."
Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat who is sponsoring a bill that would allow the county to install an unlimited number of the speed control devices in school zones around the county, did not return calls seeking comment.
Huff's opinion is shared by other council members.
David Marks, a Republican who represents Perry Hall and Towson, said Wednesday night that he believes the council needs to see a year's worth of statistics from the cameras.
Ken Oliver, a Democrat who represents Randallstown and Woodlawn, said today that he also believes the program has not been around long enough to make a determination on its overall effectiveness.
"I think we need at least six to 12 months of statistics," said Oliver, commenting on statistics first reported by Patch.com on Thursday.
Oliver said the chief had attempted to contact him in the last 24 hours but that he had not spoken to Johnson and had no knowledge of the contents of the pending report.