Infrastructure

Akron, Ohio, Council to Revisit Unmanned Speed Traps

Unmanned camera traps have only been deployed in school zones until now, but officials are considering expanding the program to other areas of the city.

by Jennifer Conn, Advance Ohio Media / October 8, 2018
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(TNS) — AKRON, Ohio — When City Council reconvenes Oct. 15, members are expected to resurrect talks about possibly expanding the use of unmanned traffic cameras to catch speeders.

The city now uses unmanned cameras only in school zones, but council members are revisiting the idea of stationing the cameras in neighborhoods where speeding continues to be a problem.

They will face resistance from Mayor Dan Horrigan, who opposes citywide use of unmanned cameras because Akron could lose some state funding, spokeswoman Annie McFadden wrote in an email to cleveland.com.

That's because House Bill 410, the Ohio General Assembly's latest attempt to shut down the use of the controversial cameras. The bill, which is still pending, proposes to penalize communities using the unmanned cameras by reducing the local government funds the communities receive from the state by the same dollar amount as the fines they collect from the cameras.

"Obviously, this gave Mayor pause, as we don't want to do anything to jeopardize our [local government fund] allocation, which has been greatly reduced over the past decade and has reduced our ability to devote manpower to things like speed enforcement," she wrote.

Horrigan also is working with the sponsor of HB 410 to not penalize cities that only use the unmanned cameras used in school zones. Akron police also recently added 12 hours per day of radar enforcement in city neighborhoods, McFadden wrote.

The unmanned-camera issue resurfaced during Public Safety Committee meeting this week, when Public Safety Deputy Mayor Charles Brown appeared with Akron Police Sgt. James Hentosz to explain the city's request to buy 10 Stalker II radar guns, which are manned devices.

The city is asking City Council to okay $18,000 for the guns, which would replace aging devices. The new guns can by mounted on the dashboards of cruisers, or held by hand, Hentosz told the committee.

That flexibility in design would expand the city's capability to catch speeders, which council members say is a constant source of resident complaints.

Some council members questioned why the city wants to pay for the Stalker II devices, when about a year ago, DragonCam radar guns, which issue tickets through the mail, were offered free of charge.

Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Blue Line Solutions offered to provide free training and upgrades for the DragonCam radar guns, provide free representation in court if speeders dispute tickets, and pay for any overtime accrued by Akron police officers, Councilwoman Marilyn Keith said.

Keith acknowledged that she isn't an expert on radar guns, but questioned why the city wouldn't revisit use of DragonCams because of "all the time and attention and push we have given this."

The city wants to use the Stalker II devices because they are the next generation of the technology the city has used for years, Hentosz said.

"It's the equipment we're used to, trained on and basically we're trying to keep it simple," he said.

Kilby said he supported the Stalker II legislation but doesn't support issuing unmanned citations because there's no immediate feedback for the speeder.

"The trouble with these tickets sent through the mail is you might get them a week or 10 days later and you didn't even know you were doing anything wrong for a week or 10 days," he said. They also issue tickets to cars, not necessarily the driver who was speeding, he said.

Ward 1 Councilman Rich Swirsky said speeding is a "persistent problem" in his ward and near schools, and he supports any technology that protects kids walking to school.

Ward 7 Councilman Donnie Kammer, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said he wants to see the Stalker II devices in action via video. Brown has invited council members to ride along with Akron police to see the technology at work.

©2018 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.