BLAIRSVILLE -- Several Blairsville pedestrians Monday morning stopped while walking on North Walnut Street to check out a long, thin device with a bar sticking up at each end.
To them, it was a curiosity. To Blairsville police, it's the newest tool to catch speeding motorists.
Monday morning was the first time the department was able to use its electronic non-radar device, or ENRADD. The device is on loan from the North Central Highway Safety Network as part of the Smooth Operator program, an initiative in several states to crack down on aggressive driving.
By about 10 a.m. Monday, the Blairsville police had already written nearly 10 speeding citations thanks to the new device.
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"Speeding citations are one of the biggest deterrents you can write," PennDOT District 10 safety press officer Shawn Houck said. "The key message is we need to get people to slow down."
The ENRADD system, manufactured by YIS/Cowden Group, Inc. of York, Pa., consists of several pieces. Two components that measure the speed of a passing vehicle are placed on either side of the road near the sidewalk. Each part consists of a horizontal metal bar that is three feet long with a vertical metal bar at each end. The vertical bars have sensors that measure how fast a car is going through the three-foot area.
After the speed is measured, it's transmitted to a display head, which can be plugged into a cigarette lighter in a car. The display head gives the speed in miles per hour of the car that just went through the lasers.
This new system is different from previous ones such as VASCAR -- which uses stopwatch-like devices to determine how fast a vehicles travels between two lines on the road. The VASCAR system limited the locations where police could set up for speeding checks.
"We get complaints on certain roads where we don't have the lines or there isn't enough distance to put the lines," borough officer Jill Gaston said. "With the ENRADD system, you only need three feet for them to be set up, so it's a lot easier for the officers out there."
During set-up, the system emits a beeping noise until the sensors on opposite sides of the road are lined up.
"With VASCAR, there's a little margin for error there," Houck said. "With ENRADD, it's so scientific that it's going to get you at your exact speed. The margin of error is a little bit less."
Because of this, Gaston is confidant citations issued using ENRADD will hold up in court. "I don't believe that any cases that would go to court and have a not guilty verdict would have anything to do with the system itself," Gaston said.
The system must be inspected for accuracy every 60 days.
With the new system, police vehicles can sit farther back from the road during speed enforcement, so it's less likely speeders will be tipped off. The signal from the transmitter can travel as far as 3,000 feet.
That may upset some motorists, but Houck defended the system.
"Sometimes police work has to be a little sneaky. It's worth it," he said, adding that the main purpose of the program is to reduce deaths related to speed-related accidents.
On Monday, two Blairsville officers sat in the back of a parking lot off North Walnut Street, a few hundred feet away, as vehicles drove through the sensors.
If the display in Gaston's vehicle indicated a motorist was traveling more than 10 miles per hour over the 25 mph speed limit, she alerted Cpl. Janelle Lydic to pursue the offender in a second police unit.
With ENRADD, extra officers will be on duty just to look for speeders, with money for the extra shifts coming from the Smooth Operator program.
Route 217, Route 22 and Market Street all will be targeted during Smooth Operator. The current program wave began April 6 and continues until April 20. There are three waves during the year.
Gaston wasn't sure how long the borough would have ENRADD on loan, but a Smooth Operator official said some departments have been allowed to keep the device for several years. The cost of the ENRADD system is in the $4,000 to $5,000 range.
"We're hoping that in the future someday Blairsville borough will own one," Houck said. "We're hoping the community will see how important it is."
Jared Stout can be reached at email@example.com or 724-459-2913.
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