Police arming Newcastle, WA residents with radar guns

05:50 PM PST on Monday, November 10, 2008


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Video: Newcastle civilians armed with radar guns

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NEWCASTLE, Wash. – Residents in Newcastle who complain that drivers are speeding through their neighborhoods will now be able to prove it. Newcastle police are arming residents with radar guns.

“We all have little kids and they’re riding their bikes in the street and running around and we all get in a big hurry to get out kids here and there and not be late for appointments or whatever,” said Cheryl Coupens, one of the first people to sign up for the program.

When civilians clock someone speeding, they jot down the vehicle information and pass it along to authorities. There is no fine because the radar is not being operated by commissioned officers, but owners of the speeding vehicles do get a warning letter.

The first person to check out one of those radar guns used it in a residential neighborhood near Newcastle Elementary School. Over the course of three days she caught 72 people who were speeding. Of those, about a quarter was going more than 10 miles faster than the posted speed limit.

Newcastle’s police force has just seven officers, including the chief. She says loaning out the radar gun will free up her patrol units for more pressing matters and will help them focus their limited resources in spots where speeders are a concern.

“We can see what the patterns are for the times when they’re speeding, and then if there’s a real problem in that neighborhood, we go back, go out there with a marked unit and run radar ourselves and then that’s when the tickets may follow,” said Chief Melinda Irvine.

Coupens says it’s volunteering with a twist.

“I thought it was a really good idea because I think we all need reminders to slow down,” said Coupens.

The City of Newcastle did purchase a new radar gun for the program for $700, but believes it will more than pay for itself.

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