2,600 alleged speed camera violators on municipal court docket Monday

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Monday might be a long day for Providence Municipal Court Chief Judge Frank Caprio.

Between the morning and night sessions, more than 2,600 individuals are scheduled to have their day in court after receiving a $95 school-zone speed camera ticket, according to Billy Kepner, a spokesperson for the court.

Kepner said the court doesn’t expect every person who received a ticket to appear Monday, but he acknowledged the docket is significantly longer than normal. He said 1,504 people are scheduled for Monday morning and another 1,154 are scheduled for the night session. On the average Monday, 300 individuals are on the docket.

“It’s going to be very busy,” Kepner said.

Monday is the first scheduled court date for individuals who received speed camera tickets since the new program started Jan. 16. Target 12 reported Wednesday that five cameras generated 12,193 tickets worth $1.15 million between Jan. 16 and Feb. 22. The city has already collected $370,000.

The volume of tickets – an average of 369 per day – has caught city officials by surprise, according to Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare. He said police knew they would see a spike in tickets, but they didn’t anticipate the current levels. With six more cameras set to be deployed next week, the department is preparing for the number of violations to grow substantially. (A city ordinance allows for up to 15 speed cameras.)

It’s “surprising when you look at numbers like that, but not surprising with the speed of vehicles that we see every single day in the city,” Pare said.

Pare stressed that the tickets do not affect a person’s driving record or insurance. He said every violation is reviewed by a police officer prior to a ticket being mailed. He said it takes about a minute to review each case.

“In order to change driving behavior, there has to be some kind of penalty,” Pare said.

Tickets can be issued for any vehicle caught traveling at least 11 miles per hour over the posted speed limit between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, according to the city’s contract with Conduent State and Local Solutions Inc., the private vendor that oversees both speed cameras and red light cameras in the city.

The cameras are also portable, and the city’s contract with Conduent allows for two to be moved to new locations each week. As of Feb. 22, the camera in front of Mount Pleasant High School has generated 4,795 tickets; one on Charles Street generated 4,236 tickets; and another on Thurbers Avenue generated 3,126 tickets.

Two other cameras on Daniel Avenue and Peace Street generated only 36 tickets combined, but the one on Peace Street was stolen in January. (It has since been replaced.)

As for those who intend to plead their case the Judge Caprio Monday, Pare said they are entitled to try. But he said the city is confident it can defend any challenge on the calibration of the speed cameras.

“It’s dead-on accurate,” he said.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook