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Volunteers use radar to target speeding drivers.

Byline: CITY BEAT/EUGENE By Edward Russo The Register-Guard

The next time your blood pressure rises when you see the neighborhood lead-foot it down a street, think radar.

Not Radar O'Reilly of `M*A*S*H,' but radar as in radar gun.

The city allows neighborhood volunteers to borrow radar guns, the same kind used by police, to get speeding motorists to slow down.

Residents are trained to use the devices by a Eugene police officer.

When a radar-equipped volunteer catches a motorist traveling more than 10 MPH on a neighborhood street, he or she writes down the make, model and license number of the vehicle.

Eugene Police Department volunteers then use the information to look up the vehicle registration, including address.

Then, Mr. or Ms. Leadfoot gets a "please slow down" letter from a neighborhood association. After a third letter, the offender gets a sternly worded letter from the police department.

"While fines and insurance costs associated with traffic violations can amount to hundreds and even thousands of dollars, those costs can not compare to the tragedy of being responsible for causing harm to another human being," the letter reads.

Police will not cite someone based on a volunteer observation, but the information is shared with the department's Traffic Enforcement Unit, which "may adjust their patrols accordingly," the letter warns.

If the make, model and license plate observed by the volunteer do not match the vehicle's registration, a letter is not sent out.

The program is not foolproof. It's possible that a law-abiding motorist could still get a letter.

Each month, 50 to 200 letters are mailed to motorists citywide.

Is the program effective?

"It appears to have made a difference," said Dave Cunningham, one of the radar-gun toting volunteers in the Friendly Area Neighborhood.

Cunningham lives on West 24th Avenue, in between two school crossings for Adams Elementary School and Jefferson Middle School.

A retired US West employee, Cunningham had seen too many close calls between kids and speeding cars.

Cunningham said some drivers appreciate seeing the radar gun in use, even if it is trained on them, while others are glad to be told by letter that they were exceeding the speed limit.

"They slow down," he said. The association "gets nice letters from the public, very positive. People are really apologetic."

"We get the occasional idiot who doesn't believe that we should be out there, but, you know, that is going to happen," he said.

The next volunteer training class, coordinated by the city's Planning and Community Development Department, will take place later this month. A few more volunteers can be accepted.

For details, call Brenda Schmidt at 682-5444.

Meet the chief

In office since January, Eugene Police Chief Robert Lehner is continuing to meet and greet Eugene residents.

On the first Wednesday of each month, Lehner, who came from Tucson, Ariz.,

goes to a new part of town to introduce himself.

This Wednesday, Lehner will talk to folks from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at Humble Bagel, 2435 Hilyard St.

Edward Russo can be reached at 338-2359 or
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Title Annotation:Government
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 4, 2004
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