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The Charles County Sheriff’s Office has suspended the use of all automated speed cameras until further notice.

Earlier this week, the State Highway Administration informed the sheriff’s office that the speed camera located on the westbound side of Route 228 near Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School in Waldorf is 300 feet outside the posted school zone.

There are three speed cameras currently used in the county, rotating among six posted school zones. The cameras currently are located at Dr. James Craik Elementary School in Pomfret, General Smallwood Middle School in Indian Head and Jenifer.

Because the westbound site at Jenifer is located outside the posted school zone, when it was brought to the sheriff’s office’s attention earlier this week, the camera was turned off.

Maj. Joseph “Buddy” Gibson said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon that the issue is specific to the Jenifer site, but until the sheriff’s office can do a full evaluation, the entire program is shut down.

Gibson said the sheriff’s office is confident in the program and the integrity of the process, “the infrastructure and the way citations are administered and issued.”

Gibson said that was never the issue.

“What happened here is there was a breakdown in the checks and balances process of the infrastructure ... it shouldn’t have happened,” he said.

The program launched in August 2012. For the first two weeks, no citations were issued.

The camera placed on the westbound side of the Jenifer site has issued 4,000 $40 citations; roughly 3,200 of those citations have been paid, Gibson said.

The sheriff’s office is working with county officials on the concern.

“Our recommendation, with the information we have at this point will be to the county to refund these citations,” Gibson said.

The recommendation, he said, would be to refund anyone who has received a citation from the westbound Route 228 camera.

The refunds from those citations paid so far amount to about $135,000.

In a later interview, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Diane Richardson explained that while the refunds would be from the sheriff’s office, they were working with the county administrator to make sure the sheriff’s office has the proper authority to issue the refunds.

Gibson said how the refunds would be issued is undetermined at this time as officials work to put a plan in place.

He said the program will not restart until the sheriff’s office makes certain they are in 100 percent compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

Richardson said it is important to keep in mind the intent of the program is to slow drivers down in school zones.

As for the refunds, Richardson said “it’s going to take some time to work through all of this but I can promise we are working on it quickly. We simply ask people just to be patient, and we will update them as soon as we can.”

Anyone with questions should call 301-609-5971 or 301-609-5972.

gphillips@somdnews.com