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Photo system to curb school zone speeders

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By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

You better watch out and better not speed in school zones or a ticket may be sent to your house.

The Bonney Lake Police Department will be using an automated speed enforcement system beginning Sept. 5 around schools in the area.

The system, owned by Nestor Traffic Systems of Providence, R.I., with a regional office in Des Moines, is intended to augment the speed enforcement patrols already used by the department and to encourage drivers to slow down in school zones.

The speed monitoring uses LiDAR, light detection and ranging technology. According to Nestor, LiDAR differs from radar because it can accurately detect the speed of individual vehicles.

“It's another law enforcement tool to augment what officers are doing,” according to Deborah Walker, project manager for Nestor. “Officers will still be out there enforcing.”

The LiDAR unit, which contains a digital camera, will be rigged on a tripod near a van equipped with a computer system. The LiDAR unit can be up to 800 feet from the van.

If a vehicle is caught speeding the camera photographs the rear license plate. The picture and the LiDAR speed information is downloaded to a laptop computer in the van.

A Nestor employee technician operates the system from inside the van. Each day the laptop is taken to the police department where a Bonney Lake officer reviews the data and decides if a ticket should be issued.

Prior to the officer viewing the data on the computer, it has been sent to Nestor for license plate and registration verification and an accuracy review.

The ticket will be $101 and is treated like a parking ticket. It will not go on a driver's record as a speeding infraction or be reported to insurance companies.

The city can keep the entire $101 fine. The fine from a speeding ticket written by an officer is split with the state.

The cost to the city for the monitoring system will run about $15,000. The equipment cost is $3,000 per month and $150 per hour for the software and technician operating the system. The program is scheduled to be used 20 hours each week at $150 per hour or $3,000 per week.

The infractions will be handled by the Bonney Lake Municipal Court and the tickets can be contested like any other citation.

The project manager for the department will be Officer Kyle Torgerson and Officer Vince Sainati will also be involved. Sgt. Tom Longtine will be the supervisor.

Warnings will be sent out until the Sept. 19 when the real deal begins.

“We want to get the information out to warn people,” Sainati said. “I've already started to increase my enforcement around the schools.”

The city changed the school zone enforcement time from 24 hours to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

School zone signs will have photo enforced warnings attached and the enforcement times listed.

According Walker the first notice will give alleged offenders 15 days to pay the ticket or request a hearing. The second notice is the final notice and adds $25 to the fine. If the person does not respond to the ticket, it will be sent to collections by the city.

According to Sianati, speeding around the high school is a significant problem.

“I sat on 104th (Street East) and wrote three tickets in 30 minutes,” he said. “The lowest was 10 (MPH) over. A lot of neighbors have been complaining around the high school.”

Walker said one of the advantages of the monitoring system is officers can write about five tickets in an hour, where the system can nab a much high number of speeders.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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