County police looking at speed cameras in school zones

Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd speaks to county commissioners during their work session on Monday about the possibility of installing speed detection cameras on roads near Youngs Grove and Van Wert elementary.

Polk County Police could utilize a new tool to enforce school zone speed limits if it gets the approval of the county commission.

Police Chief Kenny Dodd made a presentation on installing speed-detection cameras and license plate readers on the roadways in front of Van Wert Elementary and Youngs Grove Elementary during the board’s monthly work session on Monday, July 6.

The two schools are the only Polk School District schools that are completely in the county. The option would have to be approved by the city government where the other schools are if they decide to do so.

The option to place the cameras in school zones to catch speeding drivers is allowed by Georgia House Bill 978, which was passed into law during the 2018 legislative session.

Dodd explained that the cameras would only be active when school is in session, mostly Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the school year, however the tag readers would be on around the clock. The LPR system would be connected to the laptops county officers have in their patrol vehicles and can link to the Georgia sex offender registry as well as bring up the car’s insurance and registration information.

Dodd said he has already contacted RedSpeed, a company that installs the equipment, and they would install the equipment, put up signage and take care of collecting the data all at no cost to the county.

“They pretty much take care of everything,” Dodd said. “We just have to check the car’s registration and make sure school was in session when it was caught.”

Dodd said they would issue citations to the owner of the vehicle if it is caught going 10 mph over the posted speed limit. Fines would be between $75 and $125, with 35% of the fine going to RedSpeed and 65% going to the county. The county’s portion would have to be earmarked for law enforcement purposes, according to state law.

“This is a purely civil matter. There is no criminal part of this,” Dodd said. “This won’t put points on anyone’s license or affect their insurance premiums.”

Commissioner Ray Carter said he was concerned with an outside entity being in charge of bringing a violation against someone who could not appeal it. Dodd said the county police would have to verify any violation tagged by RedSpeed and the owner of the vehicle cited could sign a sworn affidavit that they were not driving the vehicle at the time it was caught on camera and the citation would be struck.

Commissioners said they understood the benefits of having the cameras and signage posted near the schools, with the safety of children and parents being one of the most important.

Dodd said a speed study done by RedSpeed in early March on the roadways in front of both schools tagged 991 vehicles going 10 mph over the posted limit in the eight-hour span of a school day.

The county commission asked Dodd to take the matter to the Polk County school system and get their thoughts on the placement of the equipment.

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