City OKs radar guns for citizens

November 4, 2008

By Jim Feehan

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Don’t be surprised if you turn the corner and your neighbor is pointing a radar gun at you.

As part of a neighborhood Speed Watch program, residents can now be trained by police to operate a radar gun. With the equipment, residents record license plate numbers and descriptions of speeding vehicles. The information is then passed on to the police department.

“This gives us a chance to partner with the community on the speeding issue,” said Newcastle Police Chief Melinda Irvine. “This gives us the opportunity to cover more area.”

One of the most frequent requests to police and the city’s Public Works Department is the need to address speeding along residential streets.

“Frequently, it’s the people in your own neighborhood who are speeding,” Irvine said.

The initial training takes about 15 minutes. Two people are needed for a speed watch, one to clock speeds, read license plate numbers and describe vehicles, while the other person fills out the forms.

Police locate the registered owner of the vehicle and send him or her a warning letter. Typically, letters are sent to those driving at least 5 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, Irvine said.

The letter informs motorists of the observed violation and asks them to travel at the posted speed. Since Speed Watch is a community awareness program, no formal violations or fines are issued.

“Many times, people discover after volunteering for this program that their neighbors aren’t actually speeding,” Irvine said.

The program makes drivers aware of a neighborhood’s concern about speeding.

“One area where we have a lot of speeders is Lake Washington Boulevard,” Irvine said.

To participate in the Speed Watch program, e-mail the Newcastle Police Department at police@ci.newcastle.wa.us or call 649-4444, ext. 120, to schedule a time to use a radar gun, which may be used for up to three days.

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