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Bird's-eye view helps police spot speeders

Largo officials use aerial surveillance in an attempt to slow traffic along Missouri Avenue.

With the help of a frustrated resident who posted homemade warning signs, Largo police tried to slow down traffic on Missouri Avenue by handing out citations.

In a 3{-hour traffic detail dubbed Operation Skyhawk, an officer in a leased airplane clocked motorists' speeds on Wednesday. Forty motorists were issued speeding citations and 11 were cited for seat belt violations.

Shortly after the operation began, a Largo resident put up brightly colored signs telling motorists that a "speed trap" was ahead. Largo police removed the three signs, which were posted near Largo High School and a nearby restaurant.

Police Lt. Michael Stephens said he knows who put up the signs and plans to have a talk with the man, who did not get a ticket. Stephens said he believes the signs actually helped achieve the goals of the operation.

"I like to look at this gentleman as a quiet supporter of us," said Stephens, adding that the signs may have slowed some motorists but not others.

Motorists headed north on Missouri between E Bay Drive and Rosery Road were observed by Largo officer Robert Baxter, who was in a Cessna 152 that circled the area for more than three hours. With a stopwatch and a graph calculating elapsed time and distance, he determined the speed of cars traveling over the 40 mph speed limit on the stretch of road below.

Based on information radioed by Baxter, officers posted on Missouri Avenue directed motorists to a parking lot, where citations were issued.

The highest speed clocked during the operation was 66 mph. Two other motorists were cited for going 60 mph.

"I would consider this a very successful operation," Stephens said. "Think of someone going 66 mph past the high school when school starts."

The airplane costs for the operation amounted to $181. Stephens said more aerial traffic enforcement is planned within the two months.