published Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

VIDEO: Hamilton County deputies testing new speed detectors

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office traffic investigator Sgt. Mark Kimsey operates a portable light detection and ranging device, known as a LIDAR gun, to record the speed of drivers in the 6700 block of Hixson Pike on Tuesday. The sheriff's office is testing the device for Applied Technology in Brentwood, Tenn., who will issue warning tickets to drivers who are caught speeding.
Hamilton County Sheriff's Office traffic investigator Sgt. Mark Kimsey operates a portable light detection and ranging device, known as a LIDAR gun, to record the speed of drivers in the 6700 block of Hixson Pike on Tuesday. The sheriff's office is testing the device for Applied Technology in Brentwood, Tenn., who will issue warning tickets to drivers who are caught speeding.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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  • Hamilton County Sheriff's Office may deploy LIDAR
    The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is testing and may purchase a new speed detection device, known as LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to catch speeders throughout the county.

It soon could be easier for Hamilton County sheriff's deputies to catch speeders.

With one click of a LIDAR gun, which measures distance and speed of vehicles using laser technology, deputies collect data, including video and photos.

While the department already has guns that use LIDAR -- which stands for Light Detection And Ranging -- a Tennessee company has allowed the sheriff's office to test new equipment with high-resolution cameras mounted to the gun to take both still frames and video.

So far, between 400 and 500 warning citations have been mailed to the registered owners of the vehicles shown exceeding posted speed limits, said Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Traffic Sgt. Mark Kimsey.

"We're hoping it makes people slow down," he said.

On Tuesday morning, Kimsey watched cars fly past in the 6700 block of Hixson Pike, most going at least 12 miles above the 45 mph speed limit.

The department will test the guns equipped with cameras for three months. It's unclear if the department will enter into an agreement with Brentwood-based Applied Technology Partners Inc., which sells and maintains the tripod-mounted LIDAR equipment, referred to as the Velocity Scout system.

"They are the first sheriff's office to work with us," said John McConnell, president and CEO of the company, who said a few other law enforcement agencies also are testing the equipment.

Unlike other video footage or photos used in red-light cameras, officers are present when the images are captured. They review the images, as does the company before a citation is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

If the owner is not the driver, "you can transfer liability to whoever is driving the vehicle," he said.

He noted that some owners contest they are not the driver when citations are issued and photos only show the rear of the vehicle, not the driver.

In 2010, about 1,750 speeding tickets were issued and about 2,225 written traffic warnings were given for various traffic offenses in Hamilton County, according the sheriff's office annual report.

Sheriff Jim Hammond said the technology would be safer for civilians and deputies. Law enforcement officers are sometimes injured by oncoming traffic as they walk up to the driver's side window during traffic stops. Citations using cameras are less time-consuming, which could lead to more enforcement, he said.

The company runs the background on the drivers and sends out the citation after a deputy has reviewed it.

"It's less time-consuming, so the officer can go about their business," Hammond said.

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