Denham Springs rejects proposal to ticket I-12 speeders

The City Council rejected on a 2-3 vote Tuesday a proposal to set up a portable photo-laser speed enforcement system to issue speeding tickets along a stretch of Interstate 12 that passes through the city.

Mayor James Durbin said the DragonCam system being considered for use by the Denham Springs Police Department would be one way to assist police in catching speeders on the interstate.

The handheld device is capable of accurately reading the license plate of a speeding car as it passes an officer holding the camera.

The device is then capable of printing out a citation that would then be mailed to the offender. A person receiving such a citation could pay the ticket either online or by mailing in a check or appropriate credit card information, Durbin said.

The mayor said drivers cited by the photo-laser system would be considered civil offenders and the citation would not be considered a criminal matter. No court costs would be involved in collecting the fines levied by the officer operating the DragonCam.

But Councilwoman Annie Fugler suggested the system might impair the work of the City Court and the Denham Springs Marshal’s Office, which both depend on court costs to finance their operations. Durbin said that if such a situation arose, the council would have to address the problems.

“I am against this because it takes the human element out of the equation,” Councilman John Wascom said.

“A driver has no recourse to appeal to an officer. Suppose you are transporting someone with a broken leg to the hospital; the DragonCam doesn’t know that. There are too many questions about this for me to vote in favor.”

Police Chief Scott Jones, who did not strongly advocate the DragonCam, told the council that officers would not be working the laser-camera system on a 24-hour basis. Rather, he said, it would be used as manpower was available. Scott said that signs would also be placed on the roadside warning motorists that their speed was being electronically monitored.

Scott said that a test conducted to determine how many drivers speed down I-12 in the Denham Springs city limits showed that about 90 violations occur every hour. Scott said that only drivers going in excess of 71 miles-per-hour in the zone were counted even though the speed limit is 60 miles per hour in that stretch.

After additional discussion, a motion was made to instruct City Attorney Paeton Burkett to draw up a contract for the DragonCam system and write an ordinance on how it was to be regulated. The motion failed, with Wascom, Fugler and Arthur Perkins voting against and Lori Lamm-Williams and Christopher Davis voting in favor.