Radar van coming to city streets this month
By Dale Quinn
arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.05.2007
The Tucson Police Department is gearing up to roll out its mobile radar van this month to catch red-light runners and speeders around town.
The van will sit on the side of the road with cameras mounted inside to snap photos of traffic violators.
Police will test the van's systems for one week starting Aug. 15. They'll also use that time to get the word out about photo enforcement so drivers won't be caught by surprise.
Starting Aug. 22, the mobile van will target school zones, accident-prone intersections and areas where people have indicated motorists drive recklessly or too fast, said Lt. Mike Pryor, commander of the Police Department's traffic division.
It will be deployed mainly in school zones, Pryor said.
Mayor and City Council aides got a peek at the van Friday. "The goal is to reduce the amount of speeding and red-light running in Tucson. We have too much of that," said Andrew Greenhill, Mayor Bob Walkup's chief of staff.
Last fall, the council asked police to study the effectiveness of using photo enforcement.
Pryor said traffic officials looked at cities throughout the United States, including the Phoenix area. They found the technology discourages speeding and reduces the number of major-injury collisions in intersections.
In January the council approved a yearlong pilot program for photo enforcement, which includes the mobile radar van and eight red-light cameras positioned at intersections where collisions frequently occur.
Pryor could not yet say where those cameras will be.
At town hall meetings residents expressed concerns about privacy violations, Greenhill said. But the cameras will be activated only when a violation takes place, which alleviates some of those concerns, he said.
When a violation is detected, a photo of the violator and the vehicle's license number will be sent to American Traffic Solutions Inc., which owns the enforcement van.
The license number will be used to track the registered owner. If the photo matches the gender of the registered owner, a citation will be sent telling the person to pay the fine, identify the violator or schedule an appearance in court.
If someone says he or she wasn't the one driving the car and can prove it with a license photocopy, the citation will be dropped, Pryor said. The person has no legal obligation to identify the person in the photo.
Of the citations sent in Arizona, 65 to 70 percent are adjudicated, which means the violator admits wrongdoing and pays the fine or attends defensive-driving school, said Bill Burke, American Traffic Solutions' program manager in Tucson.
Pryor could not say how much the pilot program will cost the city because it hinges on the number of citations that are sent.
When a violation is paid, American Traffic Solutions gets $33.50 if the citation is generated by the van and $35 if it's generated by red-light cameras.
Speeding violations can cost the offender $147 to $357, depending on how fast the driver is going, and red-light violations can cost $273, Tucson police say.
Pryor and Greenhill emphasized that photo enforcement won't be a revenue generator for the city.
"This is a public-safety issue," Greenhill said.
The van's location will be made clear to the public with signs that indicate motorists are entering a photo-enforcement zone, said Sgt. Decio Hopffer, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.
Once the red-light cameras are installed, their locations will be posted on the Tucson Police Department's Web site.
● Contact reporter Dale Quinn at 629-9412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.