MAYFIELD, Ohio — Citing a large increase in the number of speeders on Interstate 271, as well as the high speeds at which these cars are traveling, Police Chief Paul Matias is asking Village Council to approve a new photo-enforcement program.
Matias is asking council to contract with a firm called Sensys Gatso to manage the program.
“This program would have an officer using a hand-held laser with a camera to identify and photograph vehicles traveling at excessive speeds,” Matias wrote in a June 25 memo to council members.
“The vehicle owner will receive a civil violation in the mail directing them to pay a fine for the speeding violation. These are civil violations that are not criminal and do not assess points.”
Officers also would continue to make traditional traffic stops for speeding.
I-271 northbound and southbound would be the only road where the cameras would be utilized. Matias proposes using photo enforcement on I-271 only during morning and afternoon rush hours, when traffic is heaviest and dangerous driving becomes more of a hazard.
Matias told of how the COVID-19 pandemic lessened the number of drivers on the road, but also increased the number of speeders and the speeds at which they travel.
In backing his request, Matias spoke of information gathered from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s traffic monitor that is stationed north of Highland Road, on I-271, which gives traffic information 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
“Data from the monitor shows since 2019 there has been a 20 percent reduction in (traffic) volume on I-271,” Matias wrote in his memo. “However, data shows a 102 percent increase in vehicles (traveling) above 85 mph.
“As an example, in April of 2019, there were 9,791 vehicles above 85 mph. In April of 2021, there were 20,506 above 85 mph, a 109 percent increase. On any given weekday, there are approximately 80 vehicles that are driving in excess of 85 mph between 5 and 6 p.m.”
He went on to state, “(The MVPD has) issued approximately 103 citations for speeding with an average speed of 89 mph in a 60 mph zone.
“Along with ridiculously high speeds, we see motorists failing to slow down or move over when approaching stopped police vehicles, creating an unsafe situation for officers trying to enforce the speeding violations. These traffic stops are dangerous for our officers and are having little impact on habitual violators.”
In March, Matias penned a Letter to the Editor to cleveland.com in which he told of the speeding problem and MVPD’s need to increase speed-enforcement details. Matias said that, in recent months, even when police do stop a car for speeding, other passing motorists do not seem to be deterred and continue on at a high rate of speed.
Speaking to council during its July 6 caucus meeting, Matias told of the danger to officers sitting in cars at the roadside as violators speed past.
“Imagine sitting in a fixed position and you have a car go by at 90 miles an hour,” he said. “You have to pull out from a dead stop, get your speed up, navigate the traffic to try to catch this vehicle before it gets to the Pennsylvania border. It can be dangerous when you have a high volume of traffic and the officer has to navigate through it.”
Gatso would be paid 33 percent of all fines collected via the program. Gatso manages photo-enforcement programs in 60 countries and throughout the United States, including programs in Newburgh Heights and Parma.
“They have an excellent reputation and come highly recommended by the Parma and Newburgh Heights police departments,” Matias said.
Talking about the program’s key points, Matias said that only hand-held cameras — not fixed cameras — would be used on I-271; that the program’s purpose is to reduce speeding and would be implemented “not solely to generate revenue;” and that its aim is to slow speeds and make for safer rush hours.
Speaking on behalf of Gatso, National Sales Manager Dorian Grubaugh told council: “It’s a turnkey program, so what we deliver is the product for a handheld unit, in this case. We will process all of the images that are downloaded from that unit, all the violation packages. We will put them into a citation format.
“We also take care of fine collections and finance management, as well as customer service.”
A council member asked Village Prosecutor Michael Cicero what would happen if a car owner claims not to have been driving at the time his or her vehicle was found to be speeding. Cicero replied that the owner can do three things — pay the ticket, notify Gatso of a transfer of liability so that the person who was actually driving becomes responsible for the fine, or ask for a hearing. If someone seeks a hearing, it must be heard in municipal court.
Cicero added that the photo enforcement has been effective in slowing speeds on Interstate 77 in Newburgh Heights, a city for which he also serves as counsel. Matias said that Newburgh Heights utilizes fixed cameras, as well as hand-held cameras.
In order for photo enforcement to be used on I-271 in Mayfield, council will have to pass an ordinance allowing for it, as well as a customer agreement with Gatso. Matias said he is unsure as to when his request will be on council’s agenda.
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