New gadget gives police traffic data

TUPELO – The Tupelo Police Department soon will have plenty of information about just how fast people are traveling on the city’s streets.
The department recently bought a $3,500 STEALTHStat machine, a portable box with a radar to detect the speed of passing cars. The number of cars that travel a road and how fast each goes are recorded onto an memory card that the police can upload onto their computer.
The machine will not record identifying details about the cars and won’t be used to give out traffic tickets.
“If we get a complaint about a particular area, we’ll be able to see the speed of cars passing through that area,” said Lt. Tim Clouse.
The department moves the STEALTHStat box to different locations throughout the city about every 24 hours. Since receiving the device in late November, it has tracked about 20 locations, Clouse said.
“We have found that some locations that complain about speeding a lot don’t really have a lot of problems,” Clouse said. “And some locations that don’t complain do have a lot of people speeding.”
For instance, the department received a lot of complaints about Lakeshire Drive, so it left the STEALTHStat there one day. The highest speed recorded was 34 mph on a street where the speed limit is 30.
But officers found a bigger problem than expected on Jackson Avenue, where people traveled as fast as 59 and 60 mph in a 30 mph zone.
The machine also provides statistics about how many cars travel down different streets. In 24 hours, it recorded 600 cars on Lakeshire and more than 5,000 on Jackson.
The new machine will serve two main purposes, Clouse said. It will help the department determine where to best position officers, and it will make the public more aware of how fast people travel down certain streets.
Statistics from the machine will soon be posted on the department’s Web site at www.ci.tupelo.ms.us.
Right now, the department is tracking areas of the city where it has received complaints. It will continue to track different spots and will also study the difference between winter traffic and summer traffic.
Because the STEALTHStat machine is city property, it is a felony to tamper with it, Clouse said.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or at chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal