LONG BEACH — Speeding drivers may one day be photographed and cited by police without knowing it--until they receive a citation in the mail.
Police officials are considering a tryout of a photographic radar device that clocks a speeding vehicle and snaps a picture of the license plate and the driver's face. A citation is then mailed to the violator.
In the time it takes one officer to write about 10 tickets, the photo radar can record up to 260 violators. Pasadena became the first city in the state last week to begin using the machine on a one-month trial.
'It's Going to Fly'
Long Beach Police Department Cmdr. Charles Parks said the department is giving the $42,500 device serious consideration and will use it on an experimental basis if "after initial evaluation, it looks favorable."
"I think it's going to fly. I wouldn't waste time on it if we weren't interested," said Parks, who is in charge of the traffic enforcement division. He said the lure of saving officer time is a prime motivation in looking at the instrument.
In Pasadena, police last week began using a Swiss-built Zellewger Ulster photographic Doppler radar, which consists of a standard highway radar unit coupled with a microcomputer, a camera and a flash unit. In its first two days of operation, the device clocked about 250 violators, according to Pasadena police Lt. Robert Huff.
Not Actually Tickets
Information from each photograph is printed on a violation notice, which the registered owner of the vehicle receives about a week after the incident, Huff said.
The device records all vehicles that are traveling faster than the desired speed dialed into the machine. Drivers are given a cushion of about eight miles per hour, however, so if the speed limit is 35, only those driving over 43 are cited, Huff said.
The device was used but abandoned because of public outcry in Marque, Tex., and parts of Galveston County, Tex. Paradise Valley, Ariz., recently began using it, and a similar machine built in Germany is used in New York City, according to Huff.
Huff concedes that Pasadana speeders now being snared by the device could just ignore the citations. Under California law, he said, the violation notices being mailed are not actually tickets. A speeding ticket must be signed by the alleged violator, who guarantees he will appear in court. Huff indicated that it is not likely police would want to track down car owners who ignore the citations.
The usefulness of the citation is further complicated because the violator pictured as the driver may not be the registered car owner. Pasadena's city attorney is looking into possibly recommending that the city adopt an ordinance holding the registered car owner responsible for the speeding ticket, Huff said.
"Something has to be done in order to make it feasible. Some type of legislation, either on a local level or a state law, has to be done in order to force people to pay the ticket," Huff said.
But most people don't know they can get away with not paying the citation, Huff said. In Texas, more than half paid their tickets, he said.
"The majority of the people get something like this in the mail and say 'Oh, boy, if I don't pay this, something is going to happen,' " Huff said.