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The Hattiesburg Police Department will begin a camera-assisted radar program in schools on Monday. What to know

After weeks of community meetings where Hattiesburg residents could voice their opinions and concerns about the use of cameras to supplement police operations, city officials are rolling out a pilot program to test whether camera-assisted radar can encourage drivers to drive slower in school zones.

In March, the Hattiesburg City Council voted unanimously to launch the pilot program at two schools. If successful, it will be added to schools across the city when the next school year begins in the fall.

The pilot program begins Monday at two schools, Woodley Elementary and Grace Christian. Hardy Street near 21st Avenue will be the testing site for Woodley, and West Seventh Street near Grace Christian will be the location for that school.

The radar units record speed and license plates of vehicles as they pass through designated areas. The owners of vehicles found to be speeding will receive a ticket.

Police officers in designated zones will operate the devices, but because they don’t have to stop motorists, they can tag more speeders.

“We’ve had enough complaints and I’ve seen enough calls from people not caring or not paying attention while driving in active school zones,” Mayor Toby Barker said in a news release. “The goal of this technological effort is to help change behavior. In addition, the pilot program will allow us to resolve any logistical issues and provide police with data that could inform expansion of the program in other areas if successful.”

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Hattiesburg officials contracted with Intellisafe on March 19, 2024, to use camera-assisted radar to catch more drivers speeding in school zones.  The radar unit is operated by a Hattiesburg police officer during posted hours.

Hattiesburg officials contracted with Intellisafe on March 19, 2024, to use camera-assisted radar to catch more drivers speeding in school zones. The radar unit is operated by a Hattiesburg police officer during posted hours.

The pilot program is expected to run until the end of the school year. After reviewing the data and how the program is being rolled out, the Hattiesburg Police Department will work with the mayor’s office to see how it can be expanded to other school zones starting in August, according to a news release.

“We are proud to join other departments across the country in using technology to assist officers in their role of protecting and serving our residents – especially our youngest and most vulnerable,” said Police Chief Hardy Sims of Hattiesburg in the release. “Too often, drivers ignore warnings, crossing guards and multiple signs and lights while driving through school zones. It’s not okay. This technology will not only help us tackle these speeding violations, but will also help us communicate the importance of safe driving in and around school zones.”

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The camera-assisted radar technology was one of several measures considered by city officials. Other technologies were discussed during the community meetings

One idea the city introduced during the public forums was the use of drones as first responders, which could improve response times for police and fire calls and potentially de-escalate situations before they get out of hand or closer to a fire to provide images to firefighters. entering a burning building.

In addition to drones, the city is looking at using radar and camera equipment to take photos of all vehicles and license plates to determine if the vehicles are insured. Uninsured motorists would be issued a citation and given the option to pay the fine, go to court or go through a diversion program. In any case, insurance should be taken out.

Barker said in February that slowing drivers down in school zones was a priority.

“We give the public ample opportunity to weigh in on any potential initiative,” Barker said. “We did that with the Technology for First Responders conversation, and we appreciate everyone who provided input. That feedback has helped shape this first phase that we are launching.”

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The camera-assisted radar program is being implemented through technology provided through a third-party contract with Intellisafe, approved by the City Council on March 19.

Motorists who receive tickets will have the option to complete a diversion program to qualify for a reduced fine. The fines collected from the citations will be used to pay for the third-party service agreement and generate revenue for the city and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

For more information, call Barker’s office at 601-545-4501.

Do you have a story to share? Contact Lici Beveridge bee lbeveridge@gannett.com. Follow her further X @licibev or Facebook bee facebook.com/liciveridge.

This article originally appeared on Hattiesburg American: Hattiesburg police use camera-assisted radar in schools

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