When Stephanie Goepfert drives through O’Fallon on State Street, she says she feels like she’s on a drag strip.
“I’m doing 40 and people are passing me like I’m sitting still,” Goepfert said.
The O’Fallon-area resident admits she’s guilty of speeding sometimes, too, but says it’s easy to go faster than she would like when other drivers are speeding as well.
“If you’re from O’Fallon, you know that situation is there,” Goepfert said.
Complaints about speeding have increased recently, says O’Fallon Police Capt. James Cavins. In an effort to dispel misconceptions about speeding and also inform the public about speeding problems in their areas, Cavins said, police have started posting data online.
The data is collected from moveable roadside radar units, called a Trax unit, that look like little black boxes and are attached to telephone poles. The boxes collects drivers’ speeds in a database — but they do not send out tickets, according to Officer Adam Krack. Software then organizes the data and generates a report that police share on their website.
“The citizens make us aware of different complaints through neighborhoods, we deploy the Trax unit,” Krack said.
The data can provide insight into whether there really is a speeding problem on a given road, or if it’s an isolated incident, the captain said.
“Maybe it’s just one time, just that one car,” Cavins said. “Or can we tell we have known issues from the data we collect, that we do need to take further enforcement.”
The citizens make us aware of different complaints through neighborhoods, we deploy the Trax unit.
O’Fallon Officer Adam Krack
The police department has used the radar units in the past, but as complaints increase, the department decided to make the data available to residents based on reported issues.
The units go for about $3,400 each and don’t incur many ongoing expenses except for the occasional software update, Cavins said. It only takes an officer about 30 minutes to set a unit up in a concern area, 30 minutes to take it down and about 30 minutes to analyze the data, Cavins said.
The department purchased one several years ago, Cavins said, and bought another one in September “to support the citizen requests.” The money came out of the police department’s budget.
The units also collect traffic volume data for the Public Works Department, he added.
Most recently, the units helped identify speed problems in the Windsor Creek neighborhood off Milburn School Road. Residents there complained about speeding in the area, Cavins said, and the police department identified some concerns through data.
“We moved forward with making the appropriate adjustments through education, social media efforts and actual enforcement,” Cavins said. “The most important is we have factual data now to support, yeah, there is a problem.”
Still, Goepfert, who lives just outside of O’Fallon city limits, says she is concerned that the police department is over-worked in such a geographically large area.
“I’m not the only one that complains. There are so many areas to cover, my personal opinion is there’s not enough to go around,” Goepfert said.
Tracking speeding is just one of the community’s problems, the captain said.
“Officers do have a lot of tasks and responsibilities on their plate at any one given time, but we still, no matter what, have to answer to the citizens that we serve,” Cavins said. “We have to answer and be prepared to address their expectations. If one of their expectations is that we have address a speeding problem, then it’s our responsibility to respond.”