Lights, camera, $119 million! How DC makes crime pay

COPYING AND DISTRIBUTING ARE PROHIBITED WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER: SContreras@Euromoney.com

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Bankers might have spent much of this year’s IMF meetings fretting over where they might find growth, but the only growth worrying Washington’s cab drivers was the awesome sum being raked in by the city’s traffic cameras.


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It was about $119 million in 2016, including speeding tickets and red light violations. That’s up from $84 million in 2015.


Pointing out a device he reckons is a particularly high earner, one disgruntled driver explains to Euromoney the dangers of Washington’s rush-hour gridlock for red-light violations as he cautiously waits for traffic to clear before risking crossing the intersection.

In fact, the top-earning camera – near exit one on DC295 SW – notched up a startling $13 million in 2016, according to data obtained from the Washington Department of Motor Vehicles by DC Ward 3 councilmember Mary Cheh.

She is asking for the district’s Department of Transportation to look into the strategy behind traffic camera placement following complaints she has received from residents.

That $13 million is a healthy increase of 18% on the previous year, and doesn’t even include red-light violations. In all, 22 cameras boasted speeding ticket revenue of more than $1 million each.

For anyone wanting to visualize the numbers in the context of banking, the $119 million 2016 total makes the DC annual traffic camera business roughly the same size as Deutsche Bank’s average quarterly equity origination revenues that year (down 38% from 2015, by the way).

That comparison might not be especially helpful, but it seems somehow sobering.