City proposal expands traffic radar use

By Erik Siemers
Tribune Reporter
April 3, 2006

In what might be bad news for the lead-footed, the Albuquerque Police Department could soon implement a more convenient way to catch speeders.

City Councilor Craig Loy tonight will introduce a bill expanding where the city can use photo-radar devices that catch speeders without using patrol officers.

"We'll never have enough officers to put on every street," said Loy, a retired APD officer. "This is an electronic officer, if you will."

The devices are now used only in school zones and operate similarly to red-light cameras at 15 of the city's most dangerous intersections to catch drivers who rush through red lights.

The photo-radar devices can detect a driver's speed remotely, without the need for an officer. A citation is sent to the vehicle's owner through the mail.

It's a convenience that frees officers from court duty, Loy said.

"When an officer writes a citation, that officer can end up in court two or three times," Loy said. "This eliminates a lot of that."

He also said it could change the culture of driving in Albuquerque.

"I think with the photo radar, we're going to see the amount of complaints on speeders drop," Loy said. "People are never quite sure which direction is being monitored."

The city now uses one of the devices, placed inside a white van, in school zones. The van and equipment cost $5,000 a month to lease, said police spokesman John Walsh. A second vehicle has been ordered, he said.

Police officials would have to examine where the devices would be placed across the city and whether more would be ordered.

The devices have recorded 593 speeding violations since Feb. 7, Walsh said.

"The very first day there were 80 (violators) in one zone alone," Walsh said. "You can see the potential to reduce violations is enormous."

"I've heard from folks as they've been operating their motor vehicles that they are acutely aware there's a white van," Walsh said.

"If they see any white van in a school zone, the brakes go on, and people are paying attention."