Oil City and other municipalities add new device to catch speeders

Photo by Jerry Sowden - Oil City police officers Rob Culp and Kevin Daly (kneeling from left) set up a traffic speed detection device along North Seneca Street in Oil City Thursday afternoon. The two along with several other officers, including (from left) Alan Anderson, Tim Karns, both of the Oil City police department, John Miller and Mark London, both of the Franklin police department, trained on the new system.

Some municipal police departments in Venango County gained a little more enforcement muscle this week that allows officers to more aggressively target speeders.

The addition of Electronic Non-Radar Devices to departments in Oil City, Franklin and Emlenton also are going to make it a lot more difficult for law-breakers to know where police are likely to sit and keep watch.

Departments in Oil City, Franklin and Emlenton this week followed in the footsteps of Polk Borough police who have used an ENRADD device for two years.

Polk Borough police Chief Ed Sharp said the wireless speed-checking mechanism allows officers to run speed detail nearly anywhere - from bridges and main thoroughfares to back streets and alleys.

Municipal police departments throughout Pennsylvania are not allowed to use hand-held RADAR guns similar to ones used by state police.

Several of the departments have become accustomed to painting white lines on straight stretches of roadway and timing vehicles with stopwatches to determine speed. Sharp said the lines have to be approximately 132 feet apart, but the ENRADD system makes use of two tripods, each equipped with sensor units. Police sit the 3-foot tripods on opposite sides of the road.

As vehicles pass between the sensors, a vehicle's speed is calculated and transmitted via a wireless radio link to a display head located in a patrol car.

Patrols in Polk, Franklin and Emlenton have used similar devices, but the sensors had to be hard-wired into patrol cars and required an additional car to chase speeders.

"That made it a little tougher because you're tying up two cars for watching speeding," Sharp said. "You could do the white-line method with only one car, but then there was the distance problem. ... This has basically allowed us to sit anywhere."

"ENRADD can save a department between $3,000 and $5,000 per car per year (on maintenance and fuel) because officers don't have to chase speeding cars," said Jeb Bowers, an ENRADD trainer from YIS/Cowden Group from Williamsport and York. "You can be a quarter mile up the road, put on your lights, get out of your car and flag the car over."

Bowers addressed a group of officers from the four departments Thursday in Oil City's municipal building. Each officer who attended earned ENRADD certification indicating that they know how to accurately set up and operate the checking devices. Those officers will be able to train other officers in their departments, Bowers said.

Oil City police Chief Robert Wenner said officers running the ENRADD devices only need to be within sight distance of tripods and offending vehicles.

"People are really going to have to start paying attention," Wenner said. "We're going to be stepping up our enforcement and this will enable the city to respond immediately to speeding problems. We won't have to paint lines on the roads and we can have this device set up within 15 minutes."

Wenner said he hopes to dedicate one officer per shift to speed-control detail with the addition of ENRADD to the fleet. And that will be easier, he said, because it requires less manpower.

"The good thing is that this can be a one-man operation, because, like every other department, we're limited with manpower," added Franklin Police Chief Jeffrey Storm.

Emlenton Borough Police Chief Daniel Siegel, too, looks forward the proven effectiveness of the new system - of which there are approximately 300 in use throughout Pennsylvania.

"With our area - we cover Emlenton Borough and Richland Township in Clarion County - this is going to allow us to enforce speed a more effective level ... because we won't be restricted to sit in certain spots," Siegel said.

ENRADD is not intended to be the exclusive speed-watching method in any of the municipalities, according to officials.

Franklin purchased its $4,000 equipment through a city budget line item, Storm said. Oil City patrolman Kevin Daly spent time with Polk officers last year to learn more about the ENRADD system, and the city later obtained a $1,000 grant from the Edith C. Justus Charitable Trust toward the city's purchase. City council OK'd the rest of the funds in 2006.