10 Jan 2010
Heath Police Department officials say they aren't surprised that traffic violations have increased as much as 500 percent since the city ceased photo enforcement in November.
Because of the increase, Police Chief Tony Shepherd said, his department is trying new things to curb speeding and red-light offenses.
The department has purchased two poll-mounted radar signs and one radar trailer with about $30,000 of the profits collected from the traffic cameras in 2009.
"We are going to try our best with the resources we have," he said. "I don't have the officers to throw at the problem. Most of our violations occur during the day, when I have the fewest officers on patrol."
Shepherd said he hopes the new radar signs would remind drivers that the speed limit on Hebron Road is 35 miles per hour.
"These are simply reminders to people that we are watching," he said.
Former mayor Richard Waugh last week presented updated traffic-camera data, citing the increase of about 1,680 speeding violations and 330 red-light violations the week after residents voted to stop traffic-camera citations in November.
The cameras and sensors have continued to collect information, though not for ticketing purposes, Shepherd said.
"It doesn't surprise us," he said. "We, the police, knew we had a problem. ... That is a very dangerous stretch of roadway."
He said the new radar equipment was purchased prior to the information being released.
According to Waugh's data, speeding violations jumped to an average of 4,561 offenses per week between Nov. 5 and Dec. 30, compared to 861 violations the week prior to the November election.
Red-light violations rose to an average of 477 violations in that same time period, compared to 96 red-light violations the week before the Nov. 3 election, according to data.
Shepherd said the data include possible right turns on red lights, emergency vehicle traffic and other issues that would not be considered traffic violations.
If the data were to be used for official purposes, Shepherd said, officers would have to look at each violation individually.
He said the city no longer would be able to collect data from the traffic cameras because Redflex Traffic Systems, the company that owns the cameras and sensors, plans to move Heath's cameras to another town in Ohio.
In addition to collecting data, the cameras also provided a live video feed to the Heath Police Department so officers and dispatchers could keep an eye on the 10 intersections.
"It will be turned off soon," he said, adding that live video is one of the features he will miss about the Redflex system.
Shepherd said he hopes to have the mounted radar signs up and working as soon as possible, especially to curtail traffic issues on Hebron Road.
A 15-inch mounted radar screen will be placed at both the north and south limits of the city on Hebron Road to tell drivers to slow down.
Officers will move the radar trailer around the city as needed, Shepherd said.
"We will be placing it throughout the city," he said. "We will accept requests from neighborhoods. We want to use that as a reminder."