Wednesday, September 29, 2010

MoDot puts the brakes on Sugar Creek's speed cameras ... sort of

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Sugar Creek's speed camera needs a chaperone.
  • Sugar Creek's speed camera needs a chaperone.

Just when Sugar Creek thought it had a revenue source and public safety tool in one convenient package -- a portable roadside speeding camera -- the Missouri Department of Transportation has put some restrictions on the plan.

Tired of people tearing through their town, Sugar Creek officials were all excited to start using the new automated cop (provided by the manufacturer in exchange for a cut of the fines collected) along M-291. But MoDOT has concerns about privacy complaints and legal issues with the camera that sits atop a mast attached to a trailer.



So Sugar Creek is going to have to fall in line with MoDOT's guidelines

for roadside speed cameras: They can use it to ticket

people on the highway, but only if a living police officer is babysitting it the

entire time. "Our thought is, if it's attended, it's more like normal

law enforcement," MoDOT assistant engineer Chris Redline says. A few St. Louis suburbs using the cameras follow the same guidelines.

On

municipal streets though, police can nab as many speeders as they

want to without a human escort. This diminishes the camera's usefulness

somewhat, Sugar Creek Police Chief Herb Soule says, but he's

optimistic about using the camera on city roads.

"If you call me

up and say 'Hey, my kids are playing in the front yard

and cars are going by at 50 or 60 miles per hour,' I can't set a police a

officer up there for three days. But I can set up a camera there for

three days," he says.

Still, it's kinda a bummer for Sugar

Creek's pocketbook. Soule says in just two and half hours of testing the

camera on the side of M-291, it spotted 145 motorists going at least

10 mph over the speed limit and some topping 85 mph. That could

have been a lot of speeding ticket cash. 

Meanwhile, Redline says legal gray areas like this thrust MoDOT into an uncomfortable position

trying to balance law enforcement, highway safety and privacy rights.

"People are really passionate about this," he says. "We'd welcome the

general assembly weighing in with some legislation to help us out on

public policy here. It's just so divisive."

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