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Pinellas Park police ready to zap speeders

(ran East, West editions of Neighborhood Times)

Attention, you drivers who whip down Park Boulevard without a care in the world:

The Police Department plans to set up laser detection points on that main drag to crack down on speeders.

This newest operation is the department's answer to complaints from city residents, business people and elected officials. For the past two years, residents have ranked speeding cars as one of their main concerns on the department's annual police satisfaction survey.

So police Chief David Milchan said he's assigning more officers to traffic detail. Those officers will be interested in speeders and people who run red lights, the chief said.

Drivers also can think twice about bypassing Park and thus avoiding a speed trap.

Officers will be stepping up enforcement in the neighborhoods. While that may make some motorists unhappy, police think residents will be thrilled.

"We're trying to address the issues that people bring to us," Lt. John Green said.

Police discussed many ideas for catching lead-footed drivers before they settled on the lasers.

One idea was to revive 1989's Air Bear.

Airborne officers sighted speeders, then radioed officers on the ground who would pull over the offender.

Some business people complained the city was earning a reputation as a speed trap. That would mean motorists would avoid Park and the businesses along the thoroughfare. Air Bear was later discontinued.

Green said the department decided not to revive Air Bear because of the expense.

In the meantime, officers want to use an Air Bear concept _ eyes in the sky _ to help make the laser patrol a success.

At least one officer has to be above the traffic so he or she can keep an eye on the speeding car until officers pull it over.

Green said St. Petersburg, for example, once used a bucket truck. It's still unclear what Pinellas Park will use.

Milchan said it is difficult to enforce speeding laws along Park because of the congestion and the tight quarters. Finding a place to stop cars without blocking traffic is difficult.

Milchan and Green say they'll work out the details and expect to be hard into enforcement next month after the department's laser class ends.

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