Baltimore City Looks to Add “Big Brother” Speed Cameras

The Baltimore Sun reports today that Baltimore officials are asking the Maryland General Assembly to approve speed cameras in neighborhoods around the city. The need for these devices was requested in a report yesterday by a committee called – get this – Task Force on Traffic Calming and Pedestrian-Friendliness. To the great surprise of all, the task force’s proposal lacks specifics but recommends placing cameras near parks, churches, schools, and recreation centers.

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley support the proposal, which would work much like red light cameras do in most counties in Maryland. This same bill passed in 2003, but was vetoed by then-Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich.

There remains opposition in the Maryland legislature to the bill, mostly by Republicans who fear Big Brother, and, as Governor Ehrlich called it, “trial by camera.” “If you really want it to be about safety, then put a policeman there and put some points on people’s license when they speed through a school zone,” said Senator Andrew P. Harris, a Republican whose district is in parts of both Hartford County and Baltimore County. “It’s the government taking a picture of you… It’s Big Brother keeping an eye on you.”

I appreciate these concerns in the abstract, but do people really have a right not to be watched speeding down the public highways? Moreover, how much different is it being watched by a police officer, as Senator Harris suggests, than by a camera? One thing is for sure: a camera is a whole lot cheaper. Last I checked, Baltimore City did not have extra money lying around in its budget.