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Using traffic code violations for fun and profit

A handful of Montgomery County, Maryland teens are purposefully using fake license plates to fool local speed cameras, breaking the law, and causing citations to be sent to innocent drivers.

The Montgomery County Sentinel reports the trend to be a fad amongst local high schools, with teachers and fellow students as the most popular targets. Fooling the cameras is easy: the students tape a fake license plate, printed on glossy paper and using license-plate-like fonts downloaded off the web, over their real license plate – then set off cameras. Days later, a $40 citation appears in the mail for whomever the fake plates are actually registered to.

An unnamed parent said students refer to the practice as the “Pimping” game, and some have gone so far as to borrow friends’ cars that are similar to the car they wish to prank.

Montgomery Country police installed the cameras last March, with the intention of reducing traffic accidents and pedestrian collisions. The cameras are typically found in residential areas and school zones with a speed limit of 35 MPH or less.

“This game is very disturbing,” said the unnamed parent. “Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.”

Local authorities appeared unaware of the issue. Montgomery Country Police reported that they’d never heard of the prank, but told Sentinel reporters that they would “keep an eye out for the issue.”

“I have not heard of this happening among students [here],” said Wootton High School assistant principal Edward Owusu, where the prank is reported to have originated. “It is unfortunate that kids have a lot of time on their hands that they can think of doing such a thing.”

“I am concerned that someone could get hurt, first of all, because they are speeding in areas where they know speeding is a problem,” said Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrew. “It will [also] cause potential problems for the Speed Camera Program in terms of the confidence in it.”

Critics, many of whom have used the cameras’ automated nature as their main argument, now have additional all new reasons to oppose the cameras.

“I've objected to the robotic menaces primarily on the grounds that they were fallible revenue machines for the state rather than legitimate means of protecting life and limb,” said’s J.D. Tucille. “It never occurred to me that the [speed cameras] were also handy tools for wreaking revenge on enemies and authority figures. That was clearly a lapse of imagination on my part.”

Much to chagrin of privacy advocates, speed cameras and other forms of automated traffic enforcement are seeing increasing amounts of use around the world – and are becoming more and more sophisticated. Already a common sight in Europe and Australia, the speed cameras are a newer development for many parts of the United States.

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RE: ...
By theapparition on 12/22/2008 11:31:51 AM , Rating: 2
Believe me, I'm not disagreeing. I was pretty mischievious, yet never got into any real serious trouble. As it sounds you were as well. Don't think that translates either way towards future success.

However, I feel for kids these days since the seemingly harmless acts would now warrant signifigant penalties. I mean, I got caught with explosives in middle school, and was back at my desk the next day. Now, a similar act would have me expelled, shipped off to a "bad boy" home, and who knows what now happens. Life could have been completely different.

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 12:30:33 PM , Rating: 2
I mean, I got caught with explosives in middle school
There is absolutely no justifiable reason a student should have explosives of any kind in a middle school. That, and similar things that are strictly enforced today, is something children should be taught. If their parents aren't doing it, the school district has to.

RE: ...
By Aarnando on 12/22/2008 1:24:53 PM , Rating: 2
No, there isn't a reason to bring explosives to a school (or most places for that matter). His point wasn't that it's okay, but rather that authority figures are more likely to overreact these days.

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 1:44:56 PM , Rating: 2
Explosives should be met with an iron fist, at least in my opinion.

RE: ...
By Lord 666 on 12/22/08, Rating: -1
RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 3:00:38 PM , Rating: 2
You can't defend against crazy, no matter how hard you try.

RE: ...
By hashish2020 on 12/22/2008 11:13:41 PM , Rating: 2
Have you never experienced the joys of cherry bombing?

You must have a terrible life.

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/23/2008 9:41:39 AM , Rating: 2
I try to avoid doing things that damage someone else's property, or cause someone else unnecessary work. But I guess that's just me.

RE: ...
By Lord 666 on 12/22/2008 1:33:24 PM , Rating: 1
Kids, or the smart ones at least, have a way of figuring out it themselves. There has been much posted on DT about libertarian views with government, based on my upbringing and my wife's, I can make an argument for similar methods on raising kids.

Neither my mother nor my wife's mother lectured about staying away from drugs... yet neither one of us ever tried anything. Then there were the kids who had everything and got sucked into the drug trap. Those also were the kids with overbearing parents.

Personally, I feel the US does not hold minors accountable enough and should do less sugar coating at the pre-teen/teen ages. Why is it 18 to vote and serve in military, but 21 to drink? It pains me to even lie to my kid about Santa... and she is not even 4 yet. The last thing I want are two sheep for kids. However, in a time when less laws were more effective, Apparition and I figured things out.

RE: ...
By Spuke on 12/24/2008 3:26:37 PM , Rating: 2
Personally, I feel the US does not hold minors accountable enough and should do less sugar coating at the pre-teen/teen ages. Why is it 18 to vote and serve in military, but 21 to drink? It pains me to even lie to my kid about Santa... and she is not even 4 yet. The last thing I want are two sheep for kids.
Hear! Hear! As far as I'm concerned, having your kids end up in the heard is as bad as them getting addicted to drugs. I "discovered" the Santa falsehood in Kindergarten and promptly told my siblings. My mother wasn't too happy with that but a lie is a lie. I've always been the rebellious type, even now at 39. I was more sneaky than anything and loved to see just how smart others were (adults and kids). God, I got away with a LOT. Even when I was in the military. LOL!

RE: ...
By tastyratz on 12/22/2008 2:04:26 PM , Rating: 2
sure there is.
and if you brought it to school, you weren't smart enough to leave it hidden at the bus stop. If your in middle school, chances are your not a terrorist.

A mandatory part of growing up as a young boy includes every precursor to serial killer profiles. Explosives, blowing stuff up... fires - burning lots of stuff... squishing bugs...

They are all part of growing up and standard mischief.
Now your labeled as a terrorist arson cricket serial killer and sent to midget guantanamo bay.

Most of these not so innocent things are all innocent in reality. I had the anarchists cookbook at 12 and made draino bombs for fun because I couldn't get the real stuff. The difference now is people are just scared of everything. Every kid with a firecracker shouldn't get his pilots license and every adult with a pic of their kid in the tub is a pedophile.

(disclaimer before anyone asks: We used to ride our bikes and wreak havok in some of the local empty construction lots near my house. Nobody or their house/car/etc were blown up or set ablaze in the making of this comment.)

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 3:03:43 PM , Rating: 1
sure there is. YOUR A KID.
Excuses like that make me think all hope is lost.

RE: ...
By MightyAA on 12/22/2008 6:59:33 PM , Rating: 3
lol.. a "mischief" I know of was stealing and setting off two tear gas grenades that the police brought into the narc's office. Why the school's narc needed to bring tear gas into the school and leave them unsecured would be my question.

We also rebuilt a complete vw bug in the principal's office for senior ditch day... several felony laws were broken, but it was a harmless prank.

But back on topic. The only reason this prank works is because the camera systems assume guilt without proving or identifing the culpret. As noted by someone else, had a cop nailed these pranksters, the kids would of gotten a ticket; there must be something to burden of proof and these systems bypass that right all together because they can't even positively identify the "criminal" (or even match up the car it sounds like)and force the defendant to prove their own innocense.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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