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It could be your neighbor with the radar gun

The Brooksville Police Department is looking for volunteers to help the city put the brakes on speeding drivers.

By DAN DeWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- Residents with radar guns may soon patrol the streets of Brooksville.

Police Chief Ed Tincher is seeking volunteers for citizen traffic patrols.

Whether the program goes into effect, Tincher said, depends on how many residents come forward. They will not be allowed to issue tickets, he said; instead, the Police Department will send letters to violators identified by the patrols.

"We're currently sending out the word to see how many people are interested," Tincher said. "Once we have a body of volunteers, the desire of (City) Council is to arm them with radar guns and take them to an area where we have a problem with speeders."

Residents of the Candlelight subdivision on the city's southwest side, who have long complained about speeding traffic on Candlelight Boulevard, originally discussed the idea of the patrol with council member Joe Bernardini. Council members approved the patrols at their May 7 meeting.

Tincher said Thursday that any volunteers would be required to work throughout the city, not just in Candlelight. Bernardini said, however, that the volunteers should be allowed to concentrate on their own neighborhoods, because they have taken the initiative to come forward.

"They do have a (legitimate) gripe in that area. I would say, right now, let's work on their neighborhood. If that works, they can venture out to the rest of the city," Bernardini said.

Tincher and Bernardini also have broader disagreements about the program.

Tincher said he has some concerns there might be confrontations between volunteers and motorists.

"Any time we post a civilian volunteer out on the street, there's a lot of inherent risks in that, especially when you are pointing a radar gun at somebody," he said.

"He always is (opposed) to anything progressive," Bernardini said. "The stagnation at the Police Department is a real concern. It's always a reactive rather than a proactive approach, and I don't think that's the kind of approach we need right now. If you keep doing the same old thing, you're going to keep getting the same old results."

Though Tincher said he did not know exactly how the program will be organized, it will be designed to minimize confrontations. Also, it will probably be similar to the one formed last year in Crystal River.

There, the patrols consist of three or four residents. One uses the radar gun, another writes down a description of the car and a third records the license plate number; sometimes a fourth member is needed to help with the plate numbers.

This information is delivered to the Police Department, which then writes a warning letter.

Though the letters do not have the impact of a traffic ticket, Tincher said, they can be effective in two ways.

"Driving is a habit. For those people who don't realize how fast they are going, this could be a nice friendly reminder," he said.

"Or the letter may come to the parent who does not realize the child was out there cruising at 70 mph in the family Buick."

Radar training

Brooksville residents who are interested in being trained to use hand-held radar units to monitor traffic should contact the city clerk's office at 544-5407. For people with disabilities, the city's TDD phone number is 544-5420. Volunteers must be city residents, registered voters and at least 18 years old.

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