Cedar Rapids unveils new traffic speed camera

Device to be deployed in school and construction zones

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The parents of about 60 Prairie High School students should expect to soon receive speeding violations in the mail, Cedar Rapids police Sgt. Mike Wallerstedt said Tuesday.

Last week, the police department got its new speed camera, the DragonCam. The department already has deployed the camera in locations around the city, but saw the most success in finding violators outside Prairie High, he said.

City officials say they’ll be deploying the DragonCam throughout the city, but with an emphasis on two areas.

“The idea is to concentrate on areas where police get a lot of complaints ... construction and school zones,” said Greg Buelow, public safety spokesman.

The City Council in September approved an amendment to its contract with Gatso USA — which includes the automated interstate speed cameras, which no longer are issuing tickets — to allow for the acquisition of the DragonCam at no cost to the city. Under the deal, Gatso will get a cut of the revenue.

Police Chief Wayne Jerman told the council at the time that the camera will allow for more speed enforcement in school and construction zones, which are typically difficult to enforce.

Wallerstedt noted that the laser-based speed detectors in the department’s squad cars go only forward and backward, meaning an officer must be parked parallel on a street to run radar.

“There’s very few school zones where that’s possible,” he said.

And construction zones, which often are congested and can have lane reductions, pose similar challenges.

With the DragonCam — which can be handheld or mounted on a tripod — officers can park on a side street or get out of their vehicles to do speed enforcement, Wallerstedt said.

The process of issuing a citation using a DragonCam is similar to automated traffic cameras in the city, but with some key differences.

An officer will have to physically use the laser to check the vehicle’s speed. If the vehicle in question is going 12 mph or more above the speed limit, an image will be taken. An officer must then accept that image.

At the end of the officer’s shift, those images and violations will be sent to Gatso. Gatso will then send the ticket information back to the officer, who must approve the violation. The ticket — a civil violation that won’t affect a motorist’s driving record — is then mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

Wallerstedt said officers still will have the discretion to pull over offenders and pursue criminal charges.

Buelow said the department is focusing on school and construction zones because those tend to be areas with the most pedestrians or workers and where speeding has the worst implications.

“The idea is to get people to slow down,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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