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Bill would let local police use radar guns

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Forty-nine of the fifty states allow local police to use radar guns to enforce speeding laws. The one holdout: the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Only state police officers are authorized to enforce speed limits with radar. State Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe County, introduced House Bill 38 in January that would allow full-time police at the local and municipal levels to use radar as a tool to time drivers' speeds.

The consensus among local police chiefs is the change would be long overdue.

“I would be ecstatic if the commonwealth would finally bring the police department into the 21st century,” West Manheim Township police Chief Tim Hippensteel said. “It's a tool we probably should've had 20 years ago.”

In 2012, there were 1,310 traffic fatalities in the state and 534, nearly 41 percent, were speed-related, according to the Department of Transportation. So why hasn't Pennsylvania allowed local police officers to use radar as a tool against speeding?

“I've never heard any reason in the 12 years that I've been here that made any sense as to why we can't use them,” Southwestern Regional police Chief Gregory Bean said. “I can't think of a single reason why it would be a negative thing to do.”

A citation written for someone who was going at least 15 mph over the posted speed limit costs the speeder $157, Hippensteel said. When that is paid, it is broken up into several categories, with only $27 coming back to the municipality, Hippensteel said. The rest is divvied up into several commonwealth funds.

“We basically become tax collectors for the commonwealth,” Hippensteel said. “It seems hypocritical.”

State police said they're for local officers using radar.

“We're very much in favor of it,” said Adam Reed, state police spokesman. “Any ways to make our roads safer, we're for it.”

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