As technology continues to advance, the everyday use of surveillance devices is becoming increasingly more common.
It may seem anywhere you turn there is some sort of camera watching, recording. Whether at the grocery store, a shopping mall or even driving on the freeway, it should come as no surprise that someone is keeping an eye on the situation.
This technology has been used to help law enforcement officers keep tabs on speeding drivers and red-light runners with great success. But some municipalities are not using it and have no plans to do so.
The city of Mesa is one that does employ photo radar technology and plans to expand its use.
Mesa Police Department Lt. Ben Kulina said the city has had equipment in place to catch red-light runners since 1993. The city is in the process of transitioning to a new contract and expanding the number of red-light cameras from 15 to 30.
“We’re also adding another component,” Lt. Kulina said. “Which is ‘speed on green’.”
“Speed on green” photographs drivers who speed through signaled intersections. The mobile “speed on green” cameras will be placed at up to five different intersections on a given day, Lt. Kulina said.
He added photo radar and red-light cameras are just tools available to law enforcement departments. He compares the devices to having an officer at the intersection.
They seem to be making a difference on the streets, according to Lt. Kulina.
“We’ve shown a reduction in injury accidents,” he said regarding the city’s use of photo safety devices.
The need for photo radar devices at intersections is there, according to officer observations.
“We’re seeing a trend where people are stopping for the red lights, but speeding up for the yellow,” Lt. Kulina said.
The town of Gilbert has less of a problem with speeding drivers and more an issue with gridlock, according to Gilbert Police Department Lt. Joe Ruet.
“We seem to have very few red-light collisions,” he said.
Lt. Ruet said traffic accidents on Gilbert streets are often a result of unsafe left turns. The town recently switched over to lagging left turns, which gives drivers a green left arrow after the green light. Lt. Ruet said the results of that switch have yet to be determined.
The decision was made not to go with photo red-light or photo radar equipment, partly because it is not cost effective, Lt. Ruet said.
“Our town council and police department have looked at it at least twice over several years,” Lt. Ruet said.
Gilbert Traffic Sgt. Scott Girardin said that instead of using a camera to catch red-light runners or speeders, officers focus on problem intersections. Each quarter a “top 10 list” is produced, listing the crossroads that see a more-than-proportionate share of accidents.
“We focus our enforcement on those intersections,” Sgt. Girardin said.
Certain intersections such as: Val Vista and Warner roads; Val Vista and Baseline roads; Cooper and Guadalupe roads; and Cooper and Warner roads are consistently on the list, he said.
Using photo-radar devices in sprawling jurisdictions where officers are utilized better in tasks other than traffic enforcement is common.
That is the case in San Tan and Johnson Ranch, where the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office patrols the area.
County officials are exploring whether to buy two mobile photo radar units.
In a previous interview, Sheriff Chris Vasquez said traffic along Hunt Highway takes time and resources from the PCSO.
The county soon will seek bids on the radar equipment. One mobile unit most likely will be designated specifically for the San Tan and Johnson Ranch communities, the Sheriff said.
“We’ve got to get control over the speed issues,” Sheriff Vasquez said.
Chandler’s Police Department made recent attempts to curb speeding motorists by using “speed on green” for a trial basis.
“We did approximately a three-month test program to look at speeds and hopefully gather the data,” Sgt. Mark Franzen said.
The trial run of “speed on green” lasted from September to Nov. 30. Sgt. Franzen said only warnings were handed out to motorists during that time.
The department is analyzing statistics gathered and will make a recommendation to the Chandler City Council in spring 2006, he said.
Chandler has had the photo red light for years, he said. It is a program that is in place for safety reasons. It does not make money for the city, he said.
“Accidents involving injuries have been reduced due to the implementation of photo red light,” Sgt. Franzen said.