Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Capital getting out speed guns

Council agrees to add more dollars to police budget in hopes of catching more drivers flying around.

By Dave Stewart
The Guardian

The Charlottetown police force beefed up their presence on city roads Tuesday night in an effort to crack down on speeders and those who run red lights.

City council passed a resolution at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night to boost the payroll of the police force by $20,000, money that will be used to cover any overtime incurred.

Coun. Cecil Villard, chair of the police committee, said the effect was going to be immediate.

The money does not mean the city is hiring more police officers, at least not yet. It means the police department is being reorganized so that more officers are patrolling city streets in their cruisers in an effort to crack down on what the politicians are saying is the biggest priority.

Villard and fellow Coun. Bruce Garrity say the one issue they are both hearing at the door in the run-up to the Nov. 6 municipal election is speeding and running red lights.

“We are going to reorganize the police department to get more cars out on the street immediately,’’ Villard said.

The redeployment strategy is only going to last until Christmas.

Villard said the city still intends to press the provincial government on photo technology.

If the Pat Binns government fails to bring in the necessary changes to the legislation in the fall or spring sessions, Villard said the city will go out and hire three additional officers.

Under a photo radar system, fines are issued to the registered owner of a vehicle proven to be speeding. Villard said photo technology would cost the city $120,000 for the unit itself, a price which doesn’t including processing what the technology finds.

Garrity, who has been fighting for photo radar for some time, argued the city doesn’t need the province’s help to bring in the technology.

Villard said that’s true but the city’s major problem is enforcement. While the city can issue tickets for speeding using photo radar, it doesn’t have the authority to enforce it. In other words, those who are fined aren’t required under law to pay those fines.

Under the Summary Conviction Act of the province’s Highway Traffic Act, only the province has the jurisdiction to suspend a driver’s licence or take away points. Unless the province makes changes to that legislation giving the city the ability to do that, photo radar wouldn’t have teeth, Villard said.

David Hooley, the city’s solicitor, said he has reservations about the city using photo radar.

“I have serious reservations with the city moving forward (on the issue) on its own, about whether the city can effectively (create) a bylaw dealing with standard of proof,’’ Hooley said.

Council also briefly discussed the crow issue at Victoria Park. The city received the low bid from Phoenix Agratech out of Truro, N.S. The company has agreed to send a representative to Charlottetown to give a presentation on how it would move many of the thousands of birds that roost in the city’s biggest park.

Coun. Danny Redmond said he was concerned about dispersing the crows to unwanted parts of the city.