Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has dismissed $2.4 million in speed camera tickets issued over the past month, amid outrage from residents who received thousands of tickets from cameras at six school locations.
Mangano said cameras at five locations malfunctioned, spitting out tickets on days when school was not in session. Cameras at a sixth location -- in Elmont -- went operational prematurely.
"I don't have a high confidence level that the cameras were operating at statutory levels," Mangano told Newsday Friday. "So we are declaring amnesty with all tickets issued this summer."
All fines that have already been paid will be refunded while unpaid tickets will be dismissed, he said. Ticketing will resume on the first day of school in an individual district.
On July 24, Nassau put mobile speed camera units outside Franklin Elementary School in Hempstead, Harold D. Fayette Elementary School in North Merrick, Plainedge Middle School in Bethpage, Abbey Lane Elementary School in Levittown and Hicksville High School.
In total, the county issued 30,108 valid citations at five school district locations, totaling more than $2.4 million. Another 9,807 citations had been issued in error because of incorrect enforcement dates, totaling $784,560 in fines, said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin.
They include 7,676 tickets from a fixed camera location where summer school ended before the program went live. Another 2,130 tickets were mistakenly issued from mobile units that incorrectly recorded nonenforceable hours or days of the week, Nevin said.
The errors included tickets issued at the Dutch Broadway School in Elmont, where the speed camera went operational prematurely. Nassau also dismissed more than 200 tickets mistakenly issued earlier this month at Abbey Lane Elementary School. Summer school operates Monday to Thursday but the tickets were issued on Fridays.
Nassau has contracted with Tempe, Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions to operate its speed camera program. The company, which runs the county's red-light camera program, will receive 38 percent of all fines and penalties collected by the county. Nevin did not respond to questions about whether the vendor also will have to refund its share of the ticket revenue.
"How are we supposed to know school is in session?" asked Delach, 52. "There must be a better way to keep the public informed."
Jacqueline Peiffer, 67, of Bethpage, who got four tickets totaling $320 at the Bethpage school, called the summer rollout "entrapment. No one in the neighborhood had any idea about this."
Eileen Fagan, 71, of South Hempstead, agreed. Fagan said she was unaware the cameras were operating when she received four tickets outside Franklin Elementary School.
"It's a bait and switch," Fagan said. "They are really taking advantage of the public."
In April, state lawmakers approved legislation allowing Nassau and Suffolk to install one speed camera in each of their school districts. Nassau will install cameras at 56 locations. Suffolk, which plans to roll out its program in mid-2015, will have 69 sites. Motorists that travel more than 10 mph over the posted speed limit receive an $80 ticket.
The county will begin the full-scale rollout of the program on the first day of school next month. Cameras will operate one hour before and after school, said Nassau traffic safety coordinator Chris Mistron. The cameras can also be active a half-hour before, during, and after other school events.
To date, 33 sites are being fitted with permanent camera units, Nevin said. The location of the remaining 23 sites are still under review, he said. The sites were selected based on speed tests and crash data near the schools, he said.
Installation of the fixed cameras will be completed by October, Nevin said. All of the mobile cameras will be in place by the end of September.
Officials could not say how many districts will have mobile units, which can be moved to schools throughout the district at the county's discretion. The mobile units consist of an unmarked van with two cameras and a radar machine.
Warnings will be clearer
All 56 Nassau sites will have signs alerting motorists they are approaching a "School Speed Zone." A second small white sign reads "Speed Limit Enforced By Photo/Video."
Legis. Judith Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said the existing signage is nondescript and difficult for motorists to notice. She wants signs to be larger, in color and with flashing yellow lights to warn motorists they are approaching a school zone.
"Otherwise, it's a speed trap," Jacobs said.
The speed camera program is expected to generate $25 million or more annually for the county, Nevin said. Local villages will receive a share of the revenue for violations that occur on village-owned roads.
Suffolk expects to generate $6.8 million from the 46 cameras in Western Suffolk, where the county provides police service, said county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter. The remaining 23 locations will operate on the East End, where towns and villages provide police service.
With Judy Cartwright
Now that Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has declared an amnesty for $2.4 million in speed camera tickets that had been issued over the past month, here's what happens next.
All fines that have already been paid will be refunded while unpaid tickets will be dismissed.
Speed camera ticketing will resume on the first day of school in an individual district.
33 school sites are being fitted with permanent camera units.
The remaining 23 sites are still under review, he said.
The fine for each ticket is $50 plus a $30 administrative fee.