06/06/11 — Goldsboro police set sights on speeders

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Goldsboro police set sights on speeders

By Gary Popp
Published in News on June 6, 2011 1:46 PM

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Goldsboro Police Officer William "Will" VanLenten uses a new radar gun that precisely targets speeders. Police say they plan to crack down on speeders over the next few months and that the new laser devices will help.

While summer holidays and approaching high school graduations are joyful times for many, to the patrol division of the Goldsboro Police Department, summer celebrations mean serious business.

As head of the department's patrol division, Maj. Mike West is committed to getting lead-footed motorists to slow down.

"The main thing with stopping speeders is to save lives," West said.

West said speed is a grave factor when it comes to automobile accidents.

"Speed at the time of crash is pretty much going to dictate the severity of injuries or whether or not there is going to be fatality that comes out of it," West said.

In an attempt to slow down drivers and make Goldsboro's streets and highways safer, West, with the support of interim Chief Jeff Stewart, has equipped the traffic unit with state-of-the-art speed detection devices.

One of the most recently added tools are hand-held speed detectors. The department added the radar speed guns to supplement the radar speed detection devices already installed in patrol vehicles.

The mobile LIDAR speed guns use infrared technology instead of Doppler capabilities used by older radar technology. By looking through the new devices, officers can pinpoint the rate of travel of a particular vehicle on a roadway by activating a laser beam.

The older radar system allow officers to track drivers' speeds when the violators are traveling in front of or behind a patrol vehicle. The new laser speed guns can catch speeders in any direction.

The Police Department has acquired five of the LIDAR speed guns at a cost of about $20,000. All were paid for using money provided through the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

West said the Police Department has received about $300,000 worth of equipment through the program in the last five years, more than any other city in the state since the program began in 2007.

Police departments across the state can earn redeemable points by conducting programs such as "Click It or Ticket" and "Booze It and Lose It" and other educational clinics, and subsequently filing appropriate paperwork with the state, which passes the information onto federal officials.

West and others have made a priority of working with the state program, which serves as another source of funding in this time of lean budgets.

"Especially during the economy now, a lot of municipalities don't have the money to buy a lot, so things are being put on the back burner," West said. "But through Governor's Highway Safety, and through Raleigh, it is kind of an agreement. We apply to them for a grant and, if they approve it, then they say we will purchase this amount of equipment for you. In return you are to participate in campaigns."

Police have used the money in a variety of ways to make city roads safer.

Items bought with the money include three 2009 Dodge Chargers valued at more than $61,000, radio systems valued more than $3,000 per unit, vehicle cameras that cost nearly $3,900 and vehicle computers at a cost of more than $5,200. Other less expensive items the department has acquired include flashlights and traffic cones.

Don Nail, assistant director of the Governor's Highway Safety Program, said the Goldsboro police provide exemplary participation in the program.

"They are a very dedicated group of officers and they have support from the top level of the agency. It is great to see. I know they do a great job, and they make sure their officers receive the right training," Nail said.

Nail said the governor's program provides grants and operates the point system to allow officers to be efficient while enforcing traffic and other laws.

West said the money represents a bonus, not a motivation for the department.

"The points are a benefit of doing it, but we are not doing it for the points. If Governor's Highway Safety came down tomorrow and said you no longer are going to get any points, you are not going to get any equipment or anything, we are still going to conduct check points. We are still going to do speed enforcement," West said. "We are not going to let up at all."

West said the patrol division, made up of 68 officers, will focus this summer on catching speeders, impaired drivers and drivers with no insurance or without proper license.

West said he encourages city residents to contact the Police Department if they think speeding is a problem in their neighborhood, or in a specific area.

"I want people to contact me if they have speed complaints. I will respond to the e-mail to let them know that I received it, that I am working on it," he said.

West can be reached by calling (919) 580-4254 or by e-mailing him at mwest@ci.goldsboro.nc.us.