Traffic radar camera pitched to Patterson City Council

PATTERSON, La. — The City of Patterson is looking at possibly buying handheld laser radar cameras for the police department to catch speeding vehicles by taking photos of the rear of the vehicle and clocking the speed of vehicle as well.

Mark Hutchinson of Blue Line Solutions Inc., Athens, Tenn., presented his company’s offer to provide the laser radar devices, the company’s services in processing the violations and collecting fines to the Patterson City Council.

The laser radar guns would allow officers to catch speeders without having to chase the speeder down unless the officer chose to, Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said that the important thing about an officer not having to make a traffic stop to catch a speeder is that 33 percent of officers killed in the line of duty are killed while making traffic stops, so the laser radar guns would help in those situations, he said.

“It gives an added amount of safety to the community,” Hutchinson said, by allowing the officer to make less high-speed chases when making traffic stops and thus lessen the likelihood of posing a threat to people on the roadways.

There are no upfront costs associated with the program, Hutchinson said. His company would negotiate the percentage of money that the company gets from the violation fines paid.

The camera has a fixed focus from 150 feet to 600 feet away. The officer must aim the laser at the vehicle and hit it with the laser anywhere on the vehicle and two photos will be taken of the rear of the vehicle capturing the license plate only if the vehicle is exceeding the speed limit or exceeding the “threshold” set by the officer, Hutchinson said.

The “threshold” means that the officer can choose to set the laser radar gun to only take photos of the vehicle if it reaches a certain speed above the actual speed limit, he said. The officer could still choose to pursue the vehicle if it breaks the speed limit even if it does not break the “threshold” the officer set.

“There is no way that the speed that the officer captures is anything except that vehicle (hit by the laser),” Hutchinson said. “Ultimately the violator would get a violation in the mail versus being pulled over and ticketed.”

The violation would be a civil violation so it would not go against their driver’s insurance or points on the driver’s license, he said.

There is a cable from the laser radar gun that is attached to a tablet, he said.

If the officer approves the violation, the laser signal from the officer’s tablet is sent to Blue Line Solutions’ headquarters in Athens, Tenn., and is processed and mailed from there to the violator, he said.

Hutchinson said he was in law enforcement as a deputy chief for 16 years, and he has spent time trying to improve highway safety.

Police radar guns have been around since the ’70s, Hutchinson said. “What is new about this technology, however, is the ability for an officer to be able to, instead of pulling that vehicle over and physically making a traffic stop, to photograph the violation using the laser with the attached camera,” he said.

The city would also be able to get out of the contract at any time without penalty if it decided it no longer wanted to use the laser radar guns, Hutchinson said.

The fines paid would be sent to a lock box at Regions Bank where the front and back of the checks and the voucher would be scanned. After that, the information becomes electronic. The money would then be sent to an account under the city’s name, Hutchinson said.

Therefore, the city would not have to mail out any notices or try to collect violation fine money, he said. The city would only have to use the laser radar gun, approve the violation and provide a hearing officer for possible violators who challenge their violation tickets in court, Hutchinson said.

Patterson Police Chief Patrick LaSalle asked the council to consider Hutchinson’s proposal.

However, the council did not take action on Hutchinson’s proposal at its Tuesday meeting, and would have to first call for a public hearing before the council could vote on the proposal, said Mayor Rodney Grogan.

Correction: The name of Isiah Skinner Jr. of Leo Street in Patterson was misspelled in Tuesday’s Patterson City Council meeting story.

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