The Arlington County Board will consider advertising a public hearing on the issue at its meeting this Saturday. The proposal follows about six months of work from Arlington Public Schools Security Coordinator Kevin Reardon to develop a plan to install the cameras on 10-20 percent of APS buses with no additional expense to the county.
Virginia passed a law in 2011 that allows municipalities to install cameras on school buses and issue drivers tickets for $250 if they are recorded passing a bus when its stop arm is out. Last fall, Falls Church installed cameras on eight of its 12 school buses, Reardon said. Fairfax County is considering installing the cameras and they are also in use in Montgomery County, Md., where 300 tickets were issued in three months earlier this year.
If the County Board approves the request to advertise, it likely won’t be able to approve the cameras until September, since there is no meeting in August. If it’s approved, APS is expected to seek an outside vendor to install, maintain and operate the cameras. The vendor would receive a substantial percentage of the revenue from the citations as payment, Reardon said.
“In Falls Church, in their first year, the vendor got between 60 and 70 percent of the fine,” Reardon told ARLnow.com today. Another chunk of the revenue will pay the police, who will review the footage and issue the citations.
“I’m sure someone will look at this and say, ‘It’s just the school system trying to make a lot of money,’ and that is not the case. By the time you pay the police and vendor, most of the revenue is gone.”
Reardon said he proposed to earmark the remaining revenue to pay for school safety expenses. The cameras would reduce police expenses, he said, because police will occasionally follow school buses on their routes to ensure drivers aren’t going around the stop-arms.
Falls Church has averaged about one ticket per bus each day, Reardon said, but the citation rate fell essentially every month. Once a motorist is ticketed, a repeat offense is far less likely. He also suggested a 30-day grace period once the cameras are installed — there’s no estimate for when that will happen until the full item goes before the County Board — which would send citations to drivers but not charge them with a fine.
Despite some people’s reluctance to put traffic cameras on the road, Reardon said in his research, reactions to the cameras have been generally positive.
“Most places are very happy with it,” he said. “If you’re passing a school bus on Lee Highway and a child pops out, the child will be hurt severely. Previous to this, the only way we could enforce it is to have the school bus driver jot down the tag and go to court, or the police department is used to follow school buses. Now we’re automating that part of school safety, and we’re going to free the police up to do something else.”
The department was recognized as having the best traffic safety program in Virginia, for municipal police departments with 301 to 450 sworn officers. The award was announced during the recent Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police conference.
ACPD said it accomplished its traffic safety goals through “education, enforcement and engineering,” and through a number of initiatives, including:
- Traffic Accident Reduction Program (TARP)
- Response to citizen complaints utilizing a traffic complaint database
- Selective enforcement in areas designated as problem locations
- Safe Routes to School program
- Bicycle and Pedestrian safety
- Participation in Virginia’s Street Smart campaigns
- Participation in the Click or Ticket occupant safety programs
“Providing over 70 years of professional police services to the citizens and guests of Arlington County, ACPD continues a long commitment to the enforcement of all traffic laws,” the department said in a press release. “The primary goal of the department traffic safety program is to facilitate the safe and efficient flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”
Thanks to grant money from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, police will be adding traffic patrols and HOV enforcement details around the county starting today. The patrols will primarily target school zones, frequent accident locations and areas identified by citizen complaints.
While the added ACPD patrols will be enforcing all traffic laws, the Click It or Ticket campaign specifically emphasizes seat belt laws, with the goal of “sav[ing] lives by cracking down on those who don’t buckle up.”
From a police press release:
While Virginia’s seat belt use rate increased slightly to 81.8%, up from 80.5% in 2010, there is still much work to be done. According to the DMV Highway Safety Office’s TREDS (Traffic Records Electronic Data System) in preliminary 2011 statistics, there were a total of 765 fatalities – 306 of them were unrestrained at the time of the crash. Of the total unrestrained fatalities (306), 93 or 30.39% of them were between the hours of midnight – 6:00 a.m. with 69.89% or 65 of those 93 between midnight and 3:00 a.m.
Regular seat belt use saves thousands of lives across Virginia each year. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show that in 2010 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 272 lives in Virginia. An additional 112 lives could be saved with 100 percent seat belt use.
While this year’s Click It or Ticket enforcement mobilization runs from May 21st – June 3rd, motorists should know that officers are out enforcing traffic laws, including seat belt laws year round.
(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott has rescinded a controversial memo that seemingly imposed a quota system for traffic tickets and parking citations on the county’s patrol officers.
Scott says the memo, which he saw for the first time yesterday after television station WUSA 9 broke the story, was a “mistake” that has “embarrassed” rank and file police officers. A new memo Scott sent out this morning officially rescinds the March 1 memo, entitled “Proactivity Expectations 2012.”
“As a result of a news story, it became clear to me the public believed the memorandum was calling for traffic violation, parking violation and criminal arrest averages that could best be construed as ‘quotas,’” Scott wrote. “The Arlington County Police Department does not support a quota system with regard to enforcement efforts. Our officers are expected to perform their duties with the utmost professionalism and courtesy and even the insinuation that we are supporting a quota system… goes against the core values of this organization.”
Scott says there would be no disciplinary action taken against the two patrol commanders who issued the memo. At a press conference in front of police headquarters in Courthouse this morning, Scott suggested that the memo was well-intentioned but sent the wrong message.
“I do feel that most employers have performance expectations for their employees,” Scott said. “And I do believe the public believes that it’s reasonable for us to have performance expectations for our officers. However, citing specific squad averages, benchmarks or targets leads to confusion about quotas. We take this issue seriously… we do not have quotas.”
Scott added that the part of the original memo that discussed disciplinary action for officers who didn’t meet performance targets was a “mistake” and part of the reason he rescinded it.
Update at 1:45 p.m. — Arlington County has posted a video of this morning’s press conference, as seen below.
To help hammer home that message, police officers and sheriff’s deputies will be conducting “high visibility enforcement” around school zones next week.
Here’s the police press release:
The Arlington County Police Department, in conjunction with the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, will be out in force next week as the 2011-2012 school year begins. Officers and Deputy Sheriffs will be conducting high visibility traffic enforcement in and around the school zones throughout Arlington County starting on Tuesday, September 6, 2011. This will also coincide with the 3rd Annual Virginia Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Week to emphasis the need to share the road with vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists.Drivers are reminded to:
- Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times.
- Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
- Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school. Remember, we all share the road.
- Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers.
- Have all occupants wear their seatbelts.Students, bicyclist, and pedestrians are reminded to:
- Cross the street at marked crosswalks and never against a red light.
- Look before you cross and follow the direction of the school crossing guards.
- Dismount from your bicycle and walk it in a crosswalk when crossing a street.
- Always walk on designated sidewalks or paths never along the side of a road.Arlington County will have variable message boards placed along the roadways reminding citizens of the start of school and to drive safely. With a little prevention, all drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians can arrive at their destinations in a timely and safe manner.
Even the rich, influential and famous get traffic tickets in Arlington County. And it seems there’s no limit to how small the infraction or how well-known the offender.
The good doctor Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams — yes, the guy who Robin Williams portrayed in a movie — was stopped for going 44 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone last December. Dr. Adams, a north Arlington resident who travels the world dressed as a clown to bring joy to sick children, paid the fine a week later.
Washington Capitals players practice and often live in Arlington. Thus it’s not surprise that a few players have had their sweet rides stopped by Johnny Law.
Earlier this year Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom was stopped for “failure to obtain a county decal within 30 days.” Charges were eventually dropped.
Two years ago another Caps forward, Alexander Semin, was stopped for having no front license plate, an unlawful window tint, and a child restraint violation. Earlier this year, he was stopped again for having no front plate.