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Prince George's to town: Take down speed cameras

Wednesday - 5/8/2013, 11:19am  ET

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This camera on Addison Road in Fairmount Heights, along with one other, aren't authorized by Prince George's County. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

FAIRMOUNT HEIGHTS, Md. - Prince George's County officially has asked the town of Fairmount Heights to take down two speed cameras in place on county roads.

A May 3 letter from Haitham A. Hijazai, director of the Prince George's County Department of Public Works and Transportation, tells Fairmount Heights that under Maryland law, town officials were supposed to submit a plan and get approval from the county for the cameras.

But he says the town did neither.

"I am requesting that you immediately remove the speed monitoring devices from the County's roadways until such time as they may be utilized in compliance with State law," the letter states.

The letter preceded a Tuesday meeting between Fairmount Heights Mayor Lillie Thompson-Martin and Town Attorney Jason DeLoach. Neither Thompson-Martin nor DeLoach would comment on the letter, saying they hadn't seen it until WTOP showed them a copy.

The cameras are on Addison Road at L Street and on Sheriff Road at Balsamtree Drive. They currently remain in place, although they are turned off and are not issuing tickets.

"While we applaud the Town's commitment to promoting safe driving, we also must ensure compliance with the State Law concerning the use of speed monitoring devices," reads the letter.

DeLoach and Thompson-Martin declined to participate in a recorded interview, but did tell WTOP they plan to fully investigate whether the allegations in the letter are true.

"Assuming the town did not file a plan, then Prince George's County is correct that the two speed cameras are in violation of the Maryland statute," says attorney James Liskow. "However, it's not unheard of that the county could misplace paperwork."

Some municipal corporations in Prince George's County were allowed to start speed camera programs during the administration of former county executive Jack Johnson after applying for permission and not receiving a response within the required 60-day window.

DeLoach and Thompson-Martin will consult with the Fairmount Heights Town Council and camera vendor Brekford Corporation before responding to Prince George's County.

Town officials also decided against sending a police officer to argue for 12 speed camera tickets in district court on Wednesday. Those tickets will be dismissed.

"If I had a pending ticket in Fairmount Heights, knowing what's contained in the letter, I would call the town and ask the case be dismissed. If it wasn't, then I would go to court and contest the citation," says Liskow, whose court challenge successfully got a speed camera ticket tossed in Montgomery County.

"I would think you have a good faith case to ask for a dismissal and I think you would win the argument in front of most judges."

DeLoach and Thompson-Martin would not comment on whether police will attend district court in June to argue on behalf of speed camera citations.

But a question remains regarding drivers who've already paid tickets in Fairmount Heights.

According to Liskow, while anyone could file a motion to set aside the judgment, the filing fee would essentially negate any $40 award. He adds that while a class-action lawsuit would be possible, it takes time and effort that many people are unlikely to devote over such a small sum of money.

In addition, it's unclear whether such a lawsuit would be successful. He points to a similar type of case involving Montgomery County in which the Maryland Court of Appeals didn't directly address the issue.

Meanwhile, DeLoach tells WTOP that Fairmount Heights will be open and forthright with both Prince George's County and the public about their investigation.

Read the full letter below.

Prince George's County to town: Immediately remove speed cameras

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