Sneak cam stays
Disguised photo radar box now in regular use


The disguised photo radar camera that police tested for six months has made the grade. It's now a permanent fixture.

Police traffic units started using the camera - a photo radar unit in what looks like a roadside electrical service box - in September 2005 on a six-month trial.

"It's just portable is all," said Sgt. Regan James of the traffic unit. "It's just in places where we can't get a van in there."

He said it's also used near schools or in other areas "where a van would stick out like a sore thumb."

Mayor Stephen Mandel told the Sun back in November he didn't like the idea of disguising photo radar cameras.

He couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

"It has to be clear to the public where it sits," Mandel said at the time. "Hiding too much is not fair."

Marc-Aurele Racicot, a professor of law at the University of Alberta who specializes in privacy issues, said the fact people likely don't know what the camera looks like isn't an issue in his books.

"When you're driving, you're in a public place," he said.

It's similar, Racicot said, to police who obscure themselves behind trees or bends in the road when they conduct laser speed enforcement.

And the city has posted signs stating Edmonton uses photo radar, added Racicot.

James said that police get calls from people complaining of drivers speeding through their neighbourhoods.

A photo radar van placed in the neighbourhood to gauge the problem can't do it accurately, said James, because some drivers see it and slow down.

The photo radar box "is very accurate when we're trying to find a true and accurate representation of drivers," said James.

He said there are no plans currently to bring another box into service.

A study paid for by the Edmonton Police Commission and released in September found a reliable evaluation of the city's photo-radar program was not possible because of limited statistics.

Nonetheless, by reviewing reports about the effectiveness of photo radar from other cities, the authors determined it is "generally effective in reducing vehicle speed at sites where photo radar was deployed."