Residents reticent to catch speeders

 A plan to arm city residents with radar gun to help police catch speeders is off to a slow start.

As first reported by The Examiner, Burlingame in September proposed the Citizen Speed Watch program. The idea was for the police to train volunteers to use portable radar devices so they can monitor speeds in neighborhoods, police Chief Jack Van Etten said at the time.

Launched last month, the program has been spinning its wheels — no one has signed up as a radar-gun-wielding, traffic-law-enforcing citizen.

Burlingame police Cmdr. Mike Matteucci said he had no idea why there has been no interest in the program, pointing out that fundraisers the department holds typically receive tremendous community response.

“We thought that there might have been a little more participation,” city traffic engineer Augustine Chou said.

Typically other cities that have tried similar programs, however, have figured out that these sorts of ideas often lose momentum over time, Chou said.

The program’s premise was simple: Residents would receive radar guns that police no longer use, sit in their cars or on their front porches, and keep a journal marking the speed and license plate numbers of the cars that passed by.

What the volunteers could not do is put flashing lights on their cars and pull over the speeders, or even cite them, police said. They could, however, pass the license plate numbers to police, who would send the drivers warning letters. Also, when volunteers found patches of the community prone to fast drivers, police would set up speed traps and other enforcement in those areas.

Theidea came about last year as a creative solution to the plethora of complaints the department receives from residents about traffic and speeding, Matteucci said.

“We just don’t have the officers to go and work traffic in those areas like we’d like to,” Matteucci said.

But other city officials said there are simpler ways to solve the speeding problems.

Councilmember Terry Nagel, who started an expanded version of a neighborhood watch called the Burlingame Neighborhood Network, said getting to know one’s neighbors — who are often the speeding culprits — might be the best solution.

“And perhaps those who expressed interest in the program decided later that pointing a radar gun at fellow citizens might not be perceived too favorably by those in the driver’s seat,” Nagel said.

To sign up as a volunteer, or learn more about the program, call the Burlingame Police Department at (650) 777-4100.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

Guidelines

Burlingame police’s Citizen Speed Watch program.

What volunteers can do

» Use a police-issued radar gun

» Keep a journal of cars’ speed and license plate numbers

» Advise police to send a warning letter to speeders’ homes

» Advise police to set up extra enforcement in areas prone to speeding

What volunteers can’t do

» Confront speeders

» Pull over a driver

» Ask drivers for license and registration

» Cite speeders

Source: Burlingame Police Department

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