Local police departments are calling for the DeKalb County School District to allow for automated speed enforcement in school zones, but school district officials are worried about public engagement and equity.
Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan, Brookhaven Police Chief Gary Yandura, Doraville Police Chief Charles Atkinson, and Chamblee Police Chief Kerry Thomas held a press conference at Dunwoody City Hall on Monday to ask the school district to support the implementation of Automated Traffic Enforcement Safety Devices (ATESD) in school zones. These devices would be able to clock if vehicles were going above the speed limit and issue tickets to the vehicle’s registered owner.
“One of the most prevalent complaints each of our departments receives routinely is speeding in school zones,” Grogan said. “We assign resources to address these complaints, but no department has the resources to place an officer in each school zone, all day long, everyday.”
In 2018, the Georgia General Assembly passed HB 978, which allows for ATESD in school zones. In order to install these devices, departments must submit an application to the Georgia Department of Transportation with the school district’s approval.
The four police chiefs said they sent a joint letter to DeKalb County School District Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris and board members on Nov. 8, 2021, requesting the school district support the installation of ATESD. They said they have not received a response.
“Although our initial discussions were encouraging, it became evident in late 2021 that the leaders of the DeKalb County School District had no intentions of signing off on our application,” Grogan said.
Grogan said in early conversations, representatives from the district expressed concerns about equity and the protection of students whose likenesses might be captured by these devices as they were walking on sidewalks. An official statement from the district confirmed that district officials are concerned with equity, and also with ensuring adequate public engagement on the topic of ATESD.
“Safety can only be achieved through an equal partnership with local law enforcement to ensure decisions about where Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) is conducted are equitably and fairly made throughout DeKalb County,” reads the statement. “Thereby ensuring the initiative is more than a revenue-generating tool. Equitably and fairly means working with all the jurisdictions to ensure a public process is engaged to determine where ASE installations should occur. There are nine (9) cities in DeKalb County in addition to the unincorporated area. DCSD is committed to coordinating with all municipalities, the County, and the public. Any ASE must be balanced throughout DeKalb County.”
Both Grogan and Yandura said their departments have conducted traffic studies in school zones in Brookhaven and Dunwoody. According to Yandura, only two public schools in Brookhaven would be affected if the application were approved, Cross Keys High School and Montgomery Elementary School. Yandura said the department has already received permission from a private school in the area, St. Martin’s Episcopal School, which a spokesperson from the school confirmed.
According to Yandura, Cross Keys High School had 31 traffic-related accidents in 2019, 10 accidents in 2020, and 20 accidents in 2021. St. Martin’s Episcopal School had six accidents in 2019, six accidents in 2020, and two accidents in 2021. Montgomery Elementary had 14 accidents in 2019, 16 accidents in 2020, and five accidents in 2021.
Grogan said if the school district signs off on the program, the application and installation process would still take months to complete.