In St. Joe, civilians check speeders with radar guns

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 | 5:19 p.m. CDT

ST. JOSEPH - Police officers can't be everywhere at once, so citizens' groups in St. Joseph are taking the matter of checking for speeders into their own hands.

Armed with radar guns issued by the St. Joseph Police Department, the citizen volunteers watch traffic on selected streets and try to catch the plate numbers of vehicles exceeding the speed limit.

The citizens can't write tickets, but their work can lead to written warnings being sent to offending motorists.

On a recent weeknight, Danielle Hunt and Jim Korell with the Central Neighborhood Watch Group sat in the back of a sport utility vehicle equipped with pen, paper and a radar gun.

"We live on some pretty busy streets, and there are a lot of kids running around," Hunt said.

Suddenly, a sports car zipped by.

"Here we go, here we go," Hunt and Korell shouted, lunging forward to try to read the license plate.

"You want to catch them," Korell said. "But a lot of the time people are slowing down, which is good. But you just wanna nail ‘em."

In less than 90 minutes, Hunt and Korell clocked three vehicles traveling 14 miles over the posted speed limit as well as five other offenders, including a pizza delivery car.

Korell and Hunt both underwent a brief training session and a background check, required by the Police Department, before they were allowed to participate in the program.

Sgt. Bill McCammon said the pair are the third group to participate so far in the program, which has two radar guns available for citizen use.

The Police Department sent 18 warning letters to speeders as a result of the first two groups' efforts.

Hunt said the citizens jot down speeds and vehicle information of those exceeding posted limits. Information on vehicles moving more than 10 mph above the limits is forwarded to the Police Department.

The Police Department then processes that information and distributes written warnings to speeders whose information added up. If a number was written incorrectly or the make or model were not a match, that speeder got lucky, McCammon said.

"I felt like we accomplished something," Korell said as he and Hunt ended their watch.



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