Beverly Hills considers speed-trap cameras

BEVERLY HILLS The idea of using high-tech cameras to catch speeding motorists is already a reality in other states. Beverly Hills officials and police want to use the same kind of cameras in their community, but the cameras have critics.

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Run a red light along Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills and you know you are likely to be caught in the act -- not by a cop, but by a camera.

Now the Beverly Hills Police Department wants to use the same sort of technology to "capture" speeders. Especially the ones who see residential roads as shortcuts.

"I have been working these streets for almost 30 years now, and it's not unusual for these vehicles to be traveling at upwards of 50, 55 miles an hour," said Brad Cornelius, Beverly Hills Police Dept.

But before the photo speed cameras can start clicking, the state legislature has to vote that this kind of ticketing is legal.

State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) is the lawmaker sponsoring the legislation. She would like to see it fast-tracked.

"There are a lot of speeders going through the residential and school neighborhoods in Beverly Hills between one main street and another," said Kuehl. "So I said I would do that [sponsor the bill]. I think it's a problem."

Five states have already approved limited use of speed cameras, including Arizona, where cameras are not only in place along suburban streets in Scottsdale, but on fast-moving freeways.

The state had been criticized for using the cameras as a quick way of generating cash.

Beverly Hills officials, who see the criticism coming, say their speed camera program will be different.

Most notably, they say they will have noting to hide. The cameras will be clearly positioned and they will even post a warning that a photo op is approaching.

They say any extra revenue will go into police programs, not a city budget. And an officer will "man" the cameras, monitoring the radar readings.

"This is a much more efficient system of capturing more violators with the same one officer," said Cornelius.

And many people we spoke to in Beverly Hills Monday say they have no problem with a few more cameras flashing in this part of town.

"It makes perfect sense, it's a better allocation of resources for policemen as opposed to having them run around sitting on corners," said driver Robbie Willison. "It's more effective."

Still others concerned about civil liberties urge caution. They don't like the idea of Big Brother watching.

The city of San Jose had these speed cameras in place for a number of years but a few months ago, they pulled the plug on the program. They said it was costing them too much money, and they also say they question the constitutionality.


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