The cities of Brookhaven and Dunwoody have approved installing automated cameras to catch and ticket speeders in school zones. The technology is now available in Georgia after the General Assembly last year passed a law to allow the use of photo and video enforcement in school zones.
Both cities recently approved contracts with RedSpeed, an Illinois-based provider of enforcement technology. Automated speed-detection cameras, software and signage will be installed by the company in both cities. RedSpeed also provides a website for control of citations and mailing procedures.
When the cameras and equipment will be installed remains to be seen. Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan told the City Council at its Feb. 24 meeting that the DeKalb County School District has yet to sign off on the contract and the city must also gain approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation to show need. This process is expected to take months, he said.
“We have awhile before this will roll out,” he said.
The no-cost agreements allows RedSpeed to collect 35% of all fines. The remaining money must go toward local law enforcement. Brookhaven plans for the revenue to go to the city’s 911 fund. In Dunwoody, the money is being proposed to buy more surveillance cameras and license plate readers.
“The idea is to get drivers to slow down, not collect fines,” said Brookhaven spokesperson Burke Brennan after the City Council approved the RedSpeed contract on Feb. 11,
“Changing driver behavior is certainly our sole concern,” Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan told the City Council at its Feb. 24 meeting.
Motorists that would be ticketed are those traveling at least 11 mph over the school zone speed limits an hour before school starts, during the school day and an hour after school lets out. Police officers will be trained by RedSpeed on how to review each citation before mailing a ticket to the registered owner. The fine will be $75 for a first citation and $125 for further citations in the same year.
A study conducted in three Brookhaven school zones on Aug. 27 last year found more than 3,000 vehicles speeding at least 10 mph over the limit. Cross Keys High School on North Druid Hills Road had by far the highest number of speeders, with 2,230 passing by that day. There were 467 violators recorded at St. Martin’s Episcopal School and 399 at Montgomery Elementary School, both on Ashford-Dunwoody Road.
Earlier this year, Dunwoody conducted a one-day study and enforcement in three designated school zones on Roberts Drive where Austin Elementary School is, on Womack Road near Dunwoody High School and North Peachtree Road where Chesnut Elementary and Peachtree Charter Middle School are.
There were 2,319 cars captured traveling at least 10 mph over the speed limit. North Peachtree Road had the most speeder with 1,067 citations issued. Police issued 639 speeding citations on Womack Road and 613 citations on Roberts Drive.
RedSpeed will also have license plate readers in the school zones to notify police of sex offenders or wanted persons to increase safety in school zones.
Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch asked RedSpeed representative Greg Parks at the Feb. 24 meeting how their cameras differed from the notorious red-light cameras. The red-light cameras were intended deter cars from speeding through traffic lights, a top cause of crashes. But recent studies have shown they were not effective in reducing red-light crashes. People also complained the cameras were only used to make money for municipalities and have led to class-action lawsuits from drivers who said they were illegally ticketed.
Parks said school zone cameras, unlike red-light cameras, are focused on conservative enforcement in specific areas and for short amount of times.
“The red-light cameras could be put anywhere, and tickets issued anytime,” he said.
Dunwoody Councilmember John Heneghan asked about how a person could get information on the number of tickets being issued through the RedSpeed cameras. Parks said an open records request could be made to the city, which would then request the information from RedSpeed.
RedSpeed states in their contracts that the local police departments will have access to their video footage when requested. RedSpeed will keep video data for 25 days unless asked by the cities to keep the footage longer.
Once the cameras are ready to be installed, signs would be put up around school zones to notify drivers that RedSpeed cameras are in effect. Warnings will be issued to speeding drivers during the first 30 days of the program. Warning signs will be placed on both ends of every school zone.
–Dyana Bagby and Kevin C. Madigan