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Speed cameras entrapping D.C. motorists, community says

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A D.C. community is fighting against speed cameras and is even getting help from AAA Mid-Atlantic.

"I have to use Branch Avenue to get home now," said D.C. resident Ethel Wilson. "Anytime I go out, I have to use branch."

Almost every time she leaves the house, Wilson has to go by a speed camera in the 1900 block of Branch Avenue SE.

"This is an issue," Wilson said. "I call it a landmine because we don't know these mines are out there."

The stretch of road has a 25 mph speed limit downhill.

"We've all tried it, you have to keep your foot on your brakes and look down at your speedometer to make sure you don't go over 25," she said.

She's already gotten three tickets from the city--two warnings and a $125 fine.

"I haven't budgeted that kind of money in my budget and I live paycheck-to-paycheck," she said.

Experiences like Wilson's have brought members of the community out to protest the cameras which they say serve more as revenue generators than speed deterrents.

"At the core, the issue is not as much safety as it is an undue tax," said Reverend Bill Bennett, a candidate for the D.C. City Council.

Bennett has demanded the city come up with alternatives, like traffic lights.

"We're calling upon our Mayor, we're calling upon the police chief, we're calling upon the incumbent to get rid of this," Bennett said.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend said the group has received many complaints that the locations of the cameras simply don't make sense. He adds that the tickets from them generated $43.1 million in revenue in fiscal 2010.

"You haven't done your homework, you haven't done the engineering," Townsend said. "You're ensnaring and entrapping motorists."

MPD has pointed out that in 2012, the city also saw a record low 25 traffic-related deaths and responded with a statement: "All of our sites are chosen based on multiple factors, including requests from residents and known speeding areas."

A spokesperson wrote: "I find it astounding that AAA Mid-Atlantic would criticize a program that has been successful in reducing traffic deaths."

Townsend disagrees.

"It has an important traffic safety element, but all of that is being obscured by this insatiable desire for more revenue," Townsend said. "And the police department can deny it until the cows come home."

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