Police get new weapon against speeders
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Infrared technology makes changing television channels remotely, forecasting weather accurately and controlling computers wirelessly possible.
In Moon Township, officials hope it will also slow down speeding drivers.
Within the next month, township police officers will be trained in using a device, which only two other area municipalities employ against speeders.
ENRADD, a wireless speed detection device, shoots infrared beams across roadways, according to Police Chief Leo McCarthy.
"The vehicle starts electronic calibration (of a computerized stopwatch) and the vehicle stops it. Then (the device) sends a wireless signal to a chase vehicle where an officer can look and see what the vehicle's speed is and go after violator."
The unobtrusive signal can shoot nearly half a mile, but police officers must be closer to accurately identify a speeding vehicle.
Chasing a speeding driver and issuing a ticket or warning become the only human aspects in the equation, lowering error possibilities, says McCarthy.
"It's better because it starts and stops. It isn't done physically by officers."
The device will become another tool in officers' arsenal against traffic violations along with lines painted across roadways where police officers sit nearby with thumbs clicking stop watches or fingers flipping VASCAR switches.
Both of these techniques, like ENRADD, measure time taken to travel the distance alloted by lines rather than vehicle speed.
However, both depend on an officer's visual and motor aptitudes for a correct reading, said McCarthy.
"Naturally, if you have someone with poor motor skills or visual capabilities, they may switch the device improperly, and the speed may be wrong. I believe these (techniques) are highly accurate with a well-trained, healthy officer."
The officers' other technique is the pace method -- where an officer follows a vehicle for three-tenths of a mile and uses their odometer to gauge speed, depends on motor skills and proper odometer calibration.
Odometers undergo calibration every 60 days like other speed-control devices including the new one expected for delivery March 22.
The department will not pay for ENRADD calibrations the first year. The $5065 state Department of Community and Economic Development grant covers the expense as well as the device itself and training for all township officers, according to McCarthy.
Moon's officers will be the third area force to use the device, joining Allegheny County's Jefferson Hills Borough Police Department and Butler County's Cranberry Township Police Department.
In Cranberry, Corporal Dan Hahn, has used the device for several years on main roadways like Route 19, secondary roads and in school zones with the only problem being if multiple cars hit the infrared beam.
"It's a very simple machine to work and the car does all the work. It's a fantastic unit," Hahn said.
Using the ENRADD device, township manager Greg Smith said, arms police officers with another weapon against a prevailing community gripe.
"One of the major complaints in Moon Township is speeding throughout the community. When we have the device and officers are trained, it will be put into use. It should make our community safer," said Smith.