WATERLOO -- Speeding motorists here are now subject to fines even if they're not pulled over by police officers.

Waterloo has joined a number of other cities using automated traffic enforcement cameras to capture images of vehicles exceeding the speed limit and issue fines to the owners by mail.

The police department is expected Wednesday to begin using the first of three hand-held lidar units supplied by Gatso USA, of Beverly, Mass. A mobile speed trailer and several stationary cameras to capture those running red lights are still on the way.

Police Chief Dan Trelka said the speed cameras will be issuing warnings initially before switching to fines Nov. 30.

City Council members voted in August to authorize the use of automated traffic enforcement and entered a three-year contract with Gatso USA to supply and operate the cameras in return for $36 from each ticket paid.

While some have criticized the move as an attempt to boost city revenue on the backs of residents and visitors, Trelka said he believes the system will improve traffic safety.

The city doesn't plan to advertise the location of the speed camera enforcement, and motorists may not realize they've been nabbed until the fine arrives in their mailbox.

"We've taken a lot of input from the community and our officers," Trelka said of the proposed locations. "They're like fishermen. They know where the fish are biting." 

Trelka said the speed cameras will be used by police officers, primarily those on light-duty. The automated enforcement is much more efficient than traditional radar enforcement where an officer has to pull over a vehicle to write the ticket.

"That takes 20 minutes," he said. "That same officer can do 20 citations in 20 minutes with the hand-held camera."

The fine schedule established by the City Council sets speeding citations at $50 for six to 10 mph over the posted limit; $75 for 11 to 15 mph over; $100 for 16 to 20 mph over; and $200 for those going more than 20 mph over the posted limit.

Trelka noted that same $75 citation through automated enforcement would be a $222 state ticket. Unlike the state tickets, which count against a person's driving record, the civil citations won't affect car insurance rates.

After a speeder is captured on the hand-held camera, the data is sent to Gatso to verify the plates match the vehicle description. Then it is sent back to Waterloo police for a second officer to verify and approve issuing the citation.

The mailed notice will include a still image of the vehicle with the date, time, speed, officer's name and fine. It will also include a video link.

"You'll be able to see the video footage of you speeding," Trelka said.

A local appeal board has been established for those wishing to challenge the citation.

Plans call for six to 13 intersections to have fixed red light cameras in the future, but Trelka said that equipment is still two or three months away.

"They've got to go through the permit process with the state (Department of Transportation) for some of the intersections," he said. "We're in the process of initiating that."

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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