Coalition aims to bring speed radar to local Pa. police agencies

    A decades-long debate over enforcing local speed limits is about to resurface as Pennsylvania mayors and local police chiefs have banded together to form the “Radar Coalition.”Members united over their shared interest in acquiring the radar guns used by state police to identify vehicles going over the speed limit. State law bans local police from using the same tool.

    Jim Nowalk, mayor of Whitehall in Allegheny County, said his police officers tell him enforcing laws against speeding on hills and curved roads is too difficult without radar.

    “Our law enforcement officers need to tools to enable them to enforce the laws that the Legislature has enacted,” Nowalk said. “The maximum speed laws are not our laws, they’re the laws the General Assembly of Pennsylvania.”

    State College Police Chief Tom King said that, after 20 years, he only heard one argument against allowing local use of radar. “What we hear through the grapevine and just anecdotally around communities or talking to legislators is, ‘We don’t want local law enforcement to abuse it,'” said King.

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    But municipalities don’t see speed limit enforcement as a cash cow, he said, because of the costs of enforcement and the diminishing returns that would result after issuing a rash of tickets.

    “If you think you’re going to be in the business of making money off of traffic citations, speeding or otherwise, you’re wrong,” said King.

    A Senate plan to allow local police to use radar has just been introduced by state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny. A similar House plan introduced a year ago was never voted out of committee.

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