Thursday, September 13, 2007

A New Toy for the Boys

by Joyce Tremel

If any of you drive through Shaler Township in the near future, I'd advise you to watch your speed. Our boys have a new toy: the ENRADD. Never heard of it? Me neither, until recently.

ENRADD stands for Electronic Non-Radar Device. (In PA, only the state police are permitted by law to use radar.) It uses wireless infrared beams to measure speed. A sensor is placed on each side of the roadway and as the vehicle crosses through the beam, a signal is transmitted to a police car. The cool thing is that the police car can be up to 2000 feet away. By the time the driver spots the police car and slows down, it's too late. It's the most accurate speed timing device on the market. And there's no chance of human error, like with VASCAR.

VASCAR is the former way our PD clocked speeders. The traffic officer used a special stopwatch to time drivers between the two white lines painted on the roadway. The problem with this method is the officer had to start and stop the timing device. With ENRADD, the officer is not the one calculating the speed, the machine does it for him.

Yes, the guys love it.

And I'm sure I'll hate it. I'm the one who has to enter all those citations into the computer. I like citations about as much as the people who receive them. It's pure data entry and it is BORING.

They set up the ENRADD today on Route 8 (the major road through the township),so I'm sure I'll have lots and lots to complain about next week. They expected to write about 70 tags. I'll be sure to whine about every single one them.


Tory said...

Joyce: is the rumor true that at certain times officers get "quotas" of how many tickets they need to get? That giving out tickets is seen as a form of fund-raising?

Joyce said...

I think there are some tiny departments and maybe the state police that have some form of quota system. Nowhere around here does though. Definitely not Shaler.
Citations make up VERY little of a police department's revenue--most of the money goes to the state and for court costs.

I forgot to mention in my post that speeding is the number one complaint that we get from the residents. The funny thing is that sometimes the people who file the complaint are the same ones who eventually end up with a ticket.

ramona said...

Joyce, maybe you need to borrow some of the excuses speeders use to try to get out of tickets, to get out of the boring data entry. "I'm sorry, officer, but I really have to go to the bathroom!" "I'm sorry, officer, but I'm late for my kid's school play!"

I'm sure there are excuses far more inventive (and bizarre) than those two, but I've never received a speeding ticket, so I wouldn't know! The other option, I suppose, is flirting, but I wouldn't know about that, either, of course.

Joyce said...

Ramona, in some departments the officers enter their own citations. Not ours, though. The one guy who LOVES to give tags for expired inspection stickers keeps telling me it's job security. I keep telling him I don't want job security. He doesn't buy it.

Nancy said...

I am getting the feeling, Joyce, that if you're overwhelmed by the work load, a few of those citations might end up "lost" in the office?

My hometown property taxes are pretty low. The town finances the police & fire protection by using a speed trap, just off I-80. The locals know to stay under 25mph, but people whipping off the interstate in search of a bathroom get nailed. (This speed trap is one of the 3 most notorious in the nation, according to AAA.)Sure, they're enforcing the law, but surely 25 mph is unnecessarily low. Seems mercenary and mean-spirited. Not exactly "protect and serve" in nature. Doesn't endear the police to the locals, who are more likly to phone a gun-toting neighbor for help.

Joyce said...

Unfortunately, I can't "lose" the citations. Not only does the driver get a copy, the magistrate does too.

And the work load really isn't overwhelming--it's just really boring. I can enter 70 citations in less than two hours. Of course, that's provided I can read what the officer wrote and I don't have to track him down to have him decipher it.

Lee Lofland said...

I know of plenty of departments who operate a program called Selective Traffic Enforcement. This program encourages officers to run radar in their off hours at a rate of pay that's no less than-time and-a-half (some places pay much more).

The income (I'm talking millions of dollars in some areas) from the fines paid is dumped directly into the local kitty. They can avoid paying the state their cut because the individual localites have adopted an ordinance (law) which allows them to do so.

I can remember many times when I changed into a uniform after working 8 or 10 hours as a detective (most states require an officer to be in uniform to write a traffic summons) to run radar on the freeways at night so I could earn extra money at Christmas time.

It's pretty much illegal to have a ticket quota in all places I know, but we were sure "encouraged" to write a minimum of two summons every hour we worked. That justified the overtime pay and brought in a little profit. Most officers wrote four or five each hour.

ramona said...

Now I've made myself curious. Lee, or Joyce, or anybody, what's the most creative excuse you've heard from a speeder? And did it work?

Remembering, of course, that this seems to be a family-friendly blog.

Joyce said...

Lee, we only run big traffic details like that when we get grant money. The ENRADD was bought with a grant and the "Smooth Operator" program pays for the officers' overtime.

One other thing--In the nine years I've been working for Shaler, we have NEVER fixed a ticket. Before I started working here, I had always been under the impression that if you knew a cop, you could have your citation voided or withdrawn. I was wrong.

Here's one that happened recently:
One of the guys stopped a man who was weaving in and out of traffic and going 20 miles over the speed limit.

The driver, who is the president of one of the bigger companies in the township said, "Don't you know who I am?"

"Yes, I do," said the officer. He asked for his license, etc. then started writing.

"You can't give me a ticket! I own such and such company and I'm friends with the township manager!"

"I don't care who you're friends with, you were driving like an asshole and you're still getting a ticket."

He shut up.

Joyce said...

Also in PA, the only cops who are allowed to use radar are the state police. Local police can only use VASCAR and now ENRADD.

Lee Lofland said...

Here are some of my favorite excuses for traffic violations:

“Sure I know the speed limit is 65, but I wasn’t speeding. I had my cruise control set on 78. You do allow ten miles per hour over the speed limit. Don’t you?”

“My mother just died three days ago, and I really need to get to the hospital to see her.”

I’m sorry; I must’ve dozed off for a minute. Was I really speeding?”

“But the light had just turned red a second ago.”

“I have to go to the bathroom and it really helps me to not think about it if I go fast.”

Every time I switch from beer to Vodka, I seem to drive too fast.”

“Smoking dope always makes me drive fast, but I’m coming down now. I should be okay in few minutes.”

Sometimes, officers cannot resist adding a bit of sarcasm when they respond to a violator. Here’s an example of some of the real answers I’ve heard (or said).

Speeder. “Officer, I don’t have a clue as to how fast I was going.”
Officer. “I guess that means I can write anything I want to on the ticket, huh?"

Speeder. “Couldn’t you just give me a warning? One more ticket and I’ll lose my license.”
Officer. “Okay, I'm warning you not to speed again or I'll give you another ticket."

Speeder. “I want to talk to your shift supervisor before you write that ticket. We’ll get this straight!”
Officer. No problem. You can talk to the shift supervisor, but I don't think he’ll help you. By the way, did I mention that I'm the shift supervisor?"

Speeder. “Why did you stop me? Oh, I know, you have a quota, right?”
Officer. "No sir, we don't have quotas anymore. We used to, but now we're allowed to write as many tickets as we can. In fact, my boss encourages me to do just that."

Speeder. “It’s okay Officer, I’m a police officer.”
Officer. “Great, then you already know where to sign.”

Speeder. “Officer, I’ll bet you don’t give out tickets to attractive women, do you?”
Officer. You're exactly right, we don't. Sign here, please."

Offender. “You’re not man enough to arrest me.”
Officer. “I’m man enough to know that if you take your hands off the car again, I'll make your brother an only child.

Joyce said...

Lee, these are great!

ramona said...

I agree with Joyce. Those are a hoot.

BTW, I finally got your book, Lee. So far, so great.

Lee Lofland said...

Gee, Ramona. You say that like you're expecting things in the book to go downhill. :)

Seriously, I hope you find it interesting, helpful, and a little bit fun.

Anonymous said...

Good information to know about, Joyce! I'll have to keep this in mind the next time I'm driving in Shaler. Not that I EVER even think about speeding. (Ahem!)

I'm cracking up over the speeding ticket excuses, too. Some of them are just too funny.

Joyce said...

I highly recommend Lee's book. It's awesome.

Lee Lofland said...

Aw, you've made me blush, Joyce.

(Do I send you the payment for saying that now, or later?)

Joyce said...

As soon as possible. In small bills please.

ramona said...

Gee, Lee, I was trying to be complimentary.

Authors. So touchy. ;-)

Lee Lofland said...

And I was trying to be goofy, as always...

Bolo said...

Hi Joyce - i'm lust curious, when the guys srarted using ENRADD, did you see an increase in the number of folks fighting the citations in court, claiming the device made mistakes in calculating their speed?