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DC Restaurant Turns Rapidly Rising Speed Camera Tickets Into Free Meals

(Neal Jennings/Flickr/Creative Commons)

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Washington, D.C., is issuing over half a million speed camera tickets a year, but a restaurant owner is turning the bureaucratic nightmare into discounts and free meals for frustrated drivers.

Michael Sterling, owner of the restaurant Caribbean Citations in southeast D.C., offers diners with a speed camera ticket a price discount on each menu item. They also get a raffle ticket to enter a chance to have Sterling pay for their entire parking ticket.

D.C. issued 520,000 speed camera tickets last year, netting more than $55 million for the government. The city has already issued more than 365,000 tickets in the first six months of 2016, reports NBC Washington.

Revenues from speed cameras in 2016 total more than $37 million.

“When I met Micheal Sterling, I immediately noticed his passion for cooking quality Jamaican food as well as ending Washington D.C.’s obsession with traffic revenue,” Kevon Paynter, a masters student at Georgetown University studying journalism, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I can’t help but think, Washington D.C.’s traffic and parking enforcement aren’t about safety; it’s about revenue for the city.”

Paynter, frustrated with the rapidly rising number of speed cameras in the city, sought out Sterling and his restaurant to see how Caribbean Citations was turning the growing amount of tickets into a boon for business. Paynter also revealed the staggering rate of tickets issued in a documentary highlighting Sterling’s restaurant.

WATCH:

There are more speed cameras in the Washington metropolitan region than anywhere else in the country, despite a significantly smaller population than many major U.S. cities. The Metropolitan Police Department outlines fines for violations ranging as high as $300. (RELATED: DC Has More Traffic Cameras Than Any Other American City)

“The District levies fines for tickets costing $35-$300 which are increased to double the amount in 30 days if you fail to pay,” Paynter explains. “That discount on great Jamaican food successfully takes some of the initial sting out of receiving a speed camera or parking ticket.”

The District is joined by only two other states that have written laws explicitly allowing the use of speed cameras. Many states across the country have banned the use altogether or heavily restricted the practice. Officials in the District defend the practice and claim it has reduced traffic fatalities throughout the region.

Officials say they will consider reducing some speed limits and raising others to better account for differing traffic congestion in the region.

“All across the city speed limits are set too low,” Paynter told TheDCNF.

Officials with AAA vehicle service note the extreme number of cameras around the city and the stark cost differential when compared to neighboring states.

“The ticket prices are quadruple the ticket price in Maryland, and people don’t understand that,” John Townsend, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman, told NBC4. “Obey the speed limit, slow down – and there’s a harsh penalty if you don’t.”

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