UC police sending message to speeders: Slow down
Posted: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 9:24 pm
By: Chris Menees, Staff Reporter
By CHRIS MENEES
Union City police are using two new vehicles to reinforce an old message: Slow down.
Two mobile speed violation monitoring systems have been added to the Union City Police Department’s fleet through the city’s agreement with Redflex Traffic Systems, an Arizona-based road safety camera company.
Union City Assistant Police Chief Perry Barfield said the new speed enforcement vehicles are part of the traffic light and speed enforcement program offered by Redflex, the company the city solicited when its previous red light camera contractor, Traffipax, went out of business.
Redflex — which offers both red light and speed enforcement — has done survey work at various intersections in Union City and is still in the process of reviewing statistics to determine where its company will place stationary cameras to target offenders. Barfield said they will likely be placed at some of the same intersections as before, but could also be placed at some different intersections targeted as problem areas.
Additionally, Redflex offers speed enforcement as a tool to aid law enforcement in its ongoing efforts to provide public safety in the community.
Barfield said two mobile speed vans to be deployed in different locations throughout the city at various times will take photos just like the stationary traffic cameras at the red light intersections. The images will be sent to Redflex for the gathering of information and then sent to local police for review to determine if there was a true violation. If so, a citation will be mailed to the vehicle owner.
The fine will be $50, which is the same as the fixed traffic cameras, and the offense will not go on the offender’s driving record. The process for contesting a violation is also the same as that of the fixed traffic cameras.
Barfield said several police officers have completed specialized training on the deployment and post-deployment of the mobile speed violation monitoring systems. He explained the units have to be tested each time they are set up to ensure they are properly calibrated, the radar is accurate and the photos are clear.
Redflex also monitors the systems 24/7 to determine everything is working properly and can contact the police department if there is a problem.
By the numbers
The Union City Police Department set up the first of its two mobile speed violation monitoring systems for the first time Aug. 16 on West Reelfoot Avenue for a 24-hour period and then again Aug. 17 on Everett Boulevard for a little less than 24 hours.
About 6,600 vehicles passed by during the 24-hour period on West Reelfoot Avenue and 101 violations of speeding were recorded during that period.
By comparison, just over 4,000 vehicles passed by in a little less than 24 hours on Everett Boulevard — where a startling 261 speed violations were recorded.
For the first 30 days, warning tickets will be issued.
Barfield said signs have been posted at Union City’s city limits to alert motorists to the use of traffic enforcement cameras and the specially-equipped vehicles are being parked along roadways where they are clearly visible.
He emphasized that police are allowing a certain tolerance of the posted speed, or a “gray area,” and are not setting an unrealistically low speed for violators.
“We feel like if you are caught speeding with this tolerance, you deserve a ticket. We are confident any officer who stopped you with radar would be issuing a citation for this speed as well,” he said.
The speed enforcement units will not be set up anywhere close to a change in speed zones and will be carefully placed in order to give motorists ample time to slow down in areas where the speed limit drops from 55 to 45 or from 45 to 35.
For safety reasons, the units must sit off the roadway at least five feet from the curb or white line. In addition to being used along roadways and in school zones, they can also be placed in residential areas where property owners have given permission and perhaps where citizens have complained about speeders.
“The great part about them being mobile is that we can put them where the problems are,” Barfield said.
According to Barfield, no city funding is being used to provide the red light or speed enforcement camera systems. The only cost to the city is in furnishing the gasoline for the speed enforcement vehicles — which are furnished by Redflex, complete with all service and maintenance.
The speed enforcement vehicles cost roughly $80,000 each with all of their high-tech computer and camera equipment.
The cost of the red light cameras at intersections and all the work they entail is also footed by Redflex, which functions from revenue generated by the cameras.
The speed enforcement vehicles — hybrids which operate on both a battery and fuel — will operate for 24 to 36 hours on a tank of gas and can easily be moved from location to location. They are currently staying about 24 hours in one set place before being relocated.
Barfield said the vehicles must run continually because of their equipment. They are constantly monitored by cameras, which means anyone caught trying to vandalize a vehicle will be captured on film.
“This is just another bit of technology that’s out there to help us do our jobs as law enforcement,” Barfield said. “This company realized they can make money on it, but they can also provide us a service, and so we’re taking advantage of the service that they’re giving us.”
Barfield said people have complained that red light and speeding cameras are being utilized to generate revenue for the city, but he emphasized they are being used first and foremost to ensure public safety.
“It is a safety issue. Statistics show that most fatal crashes are caused by speeding and/or running red lights and we feel like it’s a safety issue first and foremost,” Barfield said.
“Everyone argues that we’re doing it for revenue. Yes, there is revenue going to be generated and anybody that says that’s not good to have revenue coming in for the city, I’m not going to say, ‘No, it’s not.’ If an officer goes out and writes a ticket, we have revenue generated by that as well, so it’s the same way. That was one of the first complaints we received from people was ‘You’re just doing it to get a bunch of money.’ That’s not the primary purpose.
“In a 24-hour period, 100 tickets — there would be no way in the world an officer could get out there and write that many. And if you have 101 people in a 24-hour period that were violating the law — which it’s the posted speed limit — then it needs to be enforced. If we’re not concerned about enforcement, then we need to take the speed limits down,” he said.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 8.24.10