Police departments out of line by allowing citizens to monitor speeding motorists with radar technology

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All neighborhoods with a watch program have that one neighbor who leaves a set of binoculars next to every window in their house. These individuals see everything and will call the police if a strange car drives by. Now, these individuals who are on a first-name basis with police officers finally have their opportunity to act like real police officers.

Students from Kansas City – be cautious driving home for the holidays this year. Volunteer radar gunslingers are now taking the term nosy neighbor to a whole new level.

According to an Oct. 23 USA Today report, in Shawnee, a suburb of Kansas City, Kan., police are allowing residents to use radar guns on streets with speed limits posted at 25 miles per hour or less as long as they remain in their vehicles when using the radar gun. Annoying neighbors can sit in their car while parked in a driveway and clock your car with the battery-operated radar gun, appropriately named Stalker II.

On the Stalker Radar Web site, the Stalker II is described as revolutionary, and it “can monitor faster vehicles passing larger vehicles and display the speed of both targets simultaneously.” The police appear to be serious about this program. However, this is not an isolated event in Kansas, but a new trend developing across the country. The article reported police departments across the nation are loaning radar guns to volunteers overly concerned with correcting – or at least catching – other citizens’ traffic violations. Elsewhere across the nation, residents and homeowners’ associations are proactively tracking neighbors with radar guns.

The DeForest Police Department in DeForest, Wis., has “allowed residents to borrow a battery-operated radar gun for a week or two, sit on their front lawns and record the speeds of passing motorists” for the past year.

The DPD said it’s not only kids who speed, but adults, including soccer moms, too. People generally accept that part of a police officer’s duty is to enforce speed limits, but when a volunteer takes on the responsibility, it could be seen as patronizing and actually counteract the original intent to prevent speeding.

While championing for children’s safety is a valiant cause, catching your neighbor going 5-10 miles more than the speed limit and turning them in is bound to strain neighborhood relations.

Similar to GPS programs like Teensurance, which tracks and teen drivers geographically, this program could destroy the necessity of parent-child trust.

Neither of these monitoring devices teach teens or other drivers to avoid speeding in the future.

Volunteers have the potential to use a radar gun in an attempt to heckle others for the week or two they are allowed to have the device. While no one can receive a ticket for speeding if caught by a volunteer, police do send out warning letters depending on the residential area and how fast the vehicle was going.

Volunteers who use the Stalker II pose no real threat to speed-limit violators beyond a slap on the wrist from the local police department. If residents want their neighborhoods to be safer, then speed limit monitoring should be left to police officers who are supposed to hand out tickets to violators.

Christina Forsberg is a senior in economics and English literature. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.

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