Show Low initiates photo radar program
By: Mike Leiby, The Independent
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Show Low's new unmanned photo radar van clocks vehicles on Woolford Road Monday morning. Redflex donated the van and radar equipment to the city.
SHOW LOW - Photo speed enforcement cameras are now a reality in Show Low. The city began deploying photo enforcement vans on Saturday, May 2.
On Monday morning, police deployed a van on Woolford at Pine Vista Road.
Police Chief Jeffrey Smythe said earlier last week vans might begin being deployed as early as Friday, but he was still finalizing last-minute details and couldn't give an exact date and location for its inaugural appearance on city streets.
"The police department used accident data, citizen complaints and the experience of police officers to identify possible van locations. The department recently identified about 30 locations in Show Low to positively affect motorists' driving behaviors," a city press release said May 1.
"The ultimate goal of the program is to reduce overall speeding, reduce the number of collisions and save lives," it added.
Called the Show Low Photo Enforcement Program, Smythe said he wants to assure residents and visitors that his goal is for motorists to obey posted speed limits, not to rack up traffic citations and accrue revenue.
That is one of the reasons there will be a 30-day grace period during which violators will receive only warning letters.
Smythe added that the grace period is not a carte blanche ticket to speed in Show Low. He said if someone, for example, is caught on camera speeding multiple times daily, weekly or criminally (20 miles per hour over posted speed limits in Arizona) within that 30-day period, police will "definitely" take a second look and possibly even choose to prosecute.
But he said he hopes motorists will not choose to "push the envelope" just because there is a grace period.
He reminded motorists that regular traffic patrol officers will still be on the streets.
"All enforcement practices remain unchanged," Smythe said.
He said citations issued on-site by an officer are not privy to the 30-day grace period, only those caught on photo radar from the day the first van is deployed until 30 days afterward.
After the 30-day grace period, all citations, be they from a patrol officer or photo radar cameras will be enforced.
He added that it would please him to never to send a penny in photo-radar-derived revenue to the company supplying the city (at absolutely no cost) with photo enforcement camera equipment.
"It would be great if Redlfex invested all this and didn't get a penny back," Smythe said. "My goal is to get people to slow down, obey speed limits and increase public safety, nothing more."
The vans will be equipped with cameras capable of taking photos of speeders exceeding posted speed limits by 11 miles per hour or more, both front and back. The vans will be deployed between 40 and 70 hours weekly in different locations citywide.
"We will be placing clearly visible warning signs well before enforcement zones so motorists will have plenty of notice," he said.
In the wake of the recent shooting death of a Redflex employee in Phoenix while operating a photo radar van, Smythe said his department will vigorously prosecute anyone who assaults one of the vans or its occupants in any way.
According to a press release by Smythe, the department's intention had been to "highly publicize the locations and activities surrounding this enforcement effort. However, with the recent tragedy in the Valley where a speed van operator was shot to death, the department's position has changed. It will not be proactively releasing deployment locations at this time."
He said people need to remember the individuals operating the vans are "living, breathing people" who like want to go home after work.
"There are plenty of Americans who exercise their right to protest without going to those kind of extremes," he said.
Smythe said the state and his department are "exploring" the idea of unmanned photo enforcement vans, but at least for the near future, will continue to be manned, which is why he wants to get the message out that his department will not tolerate abuse in any fashion.
He said he understands some people object to photo radar and welcomes any dialogue on the subject. Smythe said he will do his best to meet with both opponents and supporters of photo radar as much as possible whenever they come to the department.
"I welcome and encourage open dialogue and discussion on the subject," he said. "I really do want to hear people's opinions."
He said photo radar is simply one of the tools law enforcement uses to increase public safety.
Smythe said he has worked to run an "open shop" since he took office last summer and encouraged people to stop in any time if they have something they want to talk about.
He said the department's public outreach policy is to welcome any and all public input on any law-enforcement-related subject, adding he is always happy to accommodate as many requests for ride-alongs as possible, which often gives participants invaluable insight into the life of a police officer and the workings of the department.
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