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4:34 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

Tripod gives police department new tool to ticket speeders

The Daily Courier/Jo. L. Keener<p>
City officials watch a demonstration of Redflex’s new photo enforcement system, which allows an operator to be a safe distance away from the roadway.

The Daily Courier/Jo. L. Keener<p> City officials watch a demonstration of Redflex’s new photo enforcement system, which allows an operator to be a safe distance away from the roadway.

PRESCOTT VALLEY - Access to new lightweight cameras is making work safer for photo speed enforcement van operators.

The operators, who work for Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. and not the Prescott Valley Police Department, will be recording motorists' speeds through a laptop link to the Redflex speed mobile tripod system that they can place closer to traffic. Arizona Department of Transportation District Engineer Dallas Hammit said ADOT requires vans to park at least 30 feet from a solid white line along the side of the roadway or 20 feet from the shoulder. However, the tripod could be closer to the roadway if it is behind a guardrail, which is inaccessible to a vehicle.

Redflex rolled out the mobile tripod Feb. 29, Prescott Valley Police Cmdr. P.J. Janik said during a press conference Tuesday morning.

Redflex will use Prescott Valley as a test site for the tripod, said Michael Ferraresi, associate marketing manager for the company in Scottsdale.

"We are not building this (device) for every community," he said.

The small, wireless digital camera system is similar to what the mobile vans use to track motorists who exceed the speed limit by 11 mph or more, according to a joint press release from the town and Redflex.

Weighing less than 30 pounds, it includes two high-megapixel digital cameras, two portable flash units, "speed-detection radar" and a central computer. The computer stores and transmits suspected speed violations for police to review.

The cameras take pictures of drivers' faces and the rear license plates of vehicles that trigger the device.

"It looks like something out of 'Star Wars,' but it is quite practical," Janik said.

Janik said Redflex will use the tripod on stretches of highways 69 and 89A that lack curbs because it is harder to park a van at the locations.

Van operators risk being struck by motorists, Ferraresi said; however, he said no one has struck any of the operators of the three Redflex vans in Prescott Valley.

A van linked to the tripod could be 100 to 300 feet from a roadway, Ferraresi said.

Redflex began providing Prescott Valley photo speed enforcement vans in October 2006, and with fixed cameras to detect speeding and red-light running at Glassford Hill Road and its intersections with Long Look Drive and Spouse Drive two months later.

Redflex this winter added van coverage to highways 69 and 89A and a stretch of Fain Road within the town limits, and installed fixed cameras on Highway 69 a half-mile east of Mendecino Drive.

Redflex says it is the largest photo enforcement technology provider in the United States, with more than 1,065 operational systems in more than 190 communities in 20 states, the press release states.

Prescott Valley police officials have contended photo enforcement encourages safer driving. However, critics see it as "big brother" and question the accuracy of the technology.

Contact the reporter at khedler@prescottaz.com