Home-made technology helps local police stretch its reach

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:15

    Sparta-For over a year, the Sparta Police Department has used technology to help slow down speedy drivers throughout the township. Recently, police officials have noticed just how much impact that technology has had. In March 2003, the department began placing a speed monitoring trailer on various Sparta roadways. The trailer uses a radar gun in conjunction with a large digital clock to display the speed of drivers passing by. Sitting right above the speed of the driver, is a posting of the speed limit for that particular road. "The idea behind it is to give people a visual of the speeds in which they are traveling," said Police Chief Ernest Reigstad in an interview earlier this week. "It's been serving as a both a warning and friendly reminder to drivers that brings awareness." According to Reigstad, many people who pass the speed trailer have no idea they are speeding because they do not look at the gauges in their own automobiles. "It's kind of hard to miss that large display," Reigstad said. Every weekday, Traffic Enforcement Officer Sergeant Glen Dusz moves the trailer to a different location. "When it is in a residential neighborhood, people call us all the time to give positive comments," said Dusz, adding that some callers have asked if the device could be permanently placed on their road, to help slow down speedy drivers. "I could probably use two to three more of them, and deploy them on a daily basis," said Dusz. Reigstad said that the purpose of the trailer is not to issue speeding violatiostead, he explained, the goal is to raise driver awareness. However, he added that the department does occasionally run radar from police cruisers around the trailer location. Recently, the speed trailer has been used to help the Department of Public Works while it repaves Sparta roads. Speeds of 10 mph or less are recommended for automobiles driving on a recently oil and stoned road. The DPW was one of the main reasons the police department received the trailer in the first place. DPW employees built the mobile radar unit for the police department at a cost of $5,600. To buy a similar unit already assembled, costs are approximately $14,000. "When you need to get traffic slowed down, and you can't get an officer there, it helps," said DPW Fleet Manager Jim Zepp. "We're thinking about building another one, because people have been requesting them." Whether or not the township will invest in additional trailers has not been determined. For now, police are strategically placing the trailer where they feel it can be most beneficial to public safety. "The units themselves are great," said Reigstad. "They stretch manpower and resources, while being interactive with drivers."