Pols want radar cameras in Philly

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER David Francis , 27, sits atop his 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass which he used to drag race before the races moved to North Philadelphia and he decided it was too dangerous to continue.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER David Francis , 27, sits atop his 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass which he used to drag race before the races moved to North Philadelphia and he decided it was too dangerous to continue.
Posted: August 20, 2013

YOU CAN'T FIX stupid, but technology could help - at least when it comes to the moron motorists who reinforce Roosevelt Boulevard's reputation as a place where mothers and children should fear to tread.

State Sen. Mike Stack said he plans to introduce legislation to bring "photo speed enforcement" cameras to the Boulevard when lawmakers return from their summer recess.

He was spurred by the horrific deaths of Samara Banks and her three kids, all of whom authorities say were mowed down by Khusen Akhmedov while he was drag racing with another driver on the Boulevard near 2nd Street on July 16.

"We're not engaging in hyperbole when we say it's life or death," Stack said recently.

"There have been catastrophic, horrible fatalities that were the result of people driving at dangerous rates of speed," the Northeast Philly Democrat said. "The cameras are one way to bring a little sanity to the Boulevard."

If Stack's efforts are successful, Philly could end up mirroring Washington, D.C., which credits its speed-camera system with an almost decade-long drop in the number of fatal car wrecks.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey was the head of the District of Columbia's police force when it began using the radar-powered cameras in 2004.

"I first saw them when I was overseas in London," he said. "We had a tremendous problem with speeding accidents in the city, and I thought [the cameras] would be something we could use to help slow people down."

According to data provided to the Daily News by District of Columbia police, the number of fatal traffic accidents fell from 45 in 2004 to 19 in 2012.

An ABC affiliate in the district reported last year that the police department has 105 speed cameras - which can be mounted on poles, or placed in parked police cruisers on the side of a roadway - throughout the city, and generates $55 million a year from tickets mailed to motorists.

"The revenue stream from the cameras pays for the upkeep," Ramsey said. "They never sleep. They are constantly in operation."

Ramsey said drivers aren't penalized for going just a couple of mph over the speed limit, and don't receive points on their licenses.

The Nutter administration is "supportive" of Stack's legislative effort, mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said.

Stack said he plans to meet with officials from other cities that use the radar cameras. He added that he'd like to see a bigger police presence on the Boulevard.

"We have fewer cops now than the day I walked in here," Ramsey said. "We're stretched thin. Whose neighborhood do you want me to take them from?"

The city already has 96 red-light cameras at 21 intersections. From April 2011 to March 2012, those cameras led to 131,800 citations and brought in $10 million in revenue, according to the Philadelphia Parking Authority's website.

The Streets Department, meanwhile, is studying the area where Banks and her children were killed to decide if there's a need for a signalized pedestrian crossing nearby.

- Staff writer Jan Ransom contributed to this report


On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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