Police Chief: No “Speed Zone” in Cedar Rapids for Now, Crashes Down 8%

By Chris Earl, Anchor/Reporter

Traffic flows along the northbound lanes of Interstate 380 as workers install speed cameras on a road sign north of the H Avenue NE interchange on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010, in northeast Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Becky Ogann

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Police Chief Greg Graham knows the city is more of a target from drivers who are speeding or running red lights. Especially with a new set of cameras installed over I-380, this time covering the northbound lanes near the 29th Street exit.

“These things have gotten people’s attention and inflamed some passion,” Graham said in an interview Thursday from his office. “I get that. Don’t speed. Don’t run red lights.”

Recent data, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, shows just how many people may have a financial stake in this. The data revealed the city issued more than 12,000 citations through July 31, with 87 percent for speeding.

Graham insists the cameras are having the appropriate effect. Keeping more officers in neighborhoods and not working on crash reports. “Our crashes, city wide, are down 8 percent this year,” Graham said. “That’s between 250 and 300 crashes. When you figure a crash takes an officer about an hour to work, that’s 250 to 300 manhours we don’t have to work.”

He also said violent crime and property crime rates are lower. Graham would not directly link the cameras as the reason for this but said the police are not working as many crashes as they had before.

Graham said the police department’s website announces where the traffic cameras are placed and even where the “mobile speed camera”, a red Jeep that tracks speed, will be located in a given week. A check of the website lists the mobile vehicle’s locations through August 29.

Is the presence of traffic cameras on I-380 having an effect outside of city limits? Graham said he has heard from neighboring law enforcement units that their speeding violations are down.

“The overall speed of the vehicles coming through the metro area has slowed some since the installation of the cameras,” said Hiawatha police chief Dennis Marks. Marks said his concern, for northbound traffic on I-380, is that drivers don’t just speed up once they get away from the cameras.

“Keeping the cars below 60 (miles per hour) is what we’re trying to do,” said Marks.

Graham said the city’s initial contract with Gatso USA is for cameras in ten locations. “We may expand it, we may not,” said Graham. “Any expansion of the red light system would be the decision of the city council and not the police department.”

The newest installation can also lead to a speed zone, measuring the time a vehicle takes on I-380 from Diagonal Drive to 29th Street NE. Graham said the system has the capability to measure that but, for now, a speed zone will not be in place.

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