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Duluth is hoping to make school zones a little safer for children by installing license plate reading cameras that target speeders and notify police if “dangerous offenders” enter the zones.

Earlier this month, the Duluth City Council approved a “comprehensive school zone safety program” that enforces existing school speed limits through the use of cameras, which will be installed by RedSpeed Ga., a subsidiary of Illinois-based RedSpeed USA.

When the cameras are not in use for speed enforcement, they will “act as a regular tag reader” and pick up on cars registered to users with Temporary Protection Orders or other criteria that bar them from being in school zones, Duluth Police Department spokesman Officer Ted Sadowski said.

“It’s kind of twofold,” Sadowski said. “It (records) speed but also can pick up on Amber Alerts and stuff like that.”

Though sex offenders in Georgia are required to register their vehicles and tags in the statewide offender database, it’s not immediately clear whether the RedSpeed cameras have access to that database and thus can pick up sex offenders who travel through school zones.

If the cameras can do that, however, police will be notified, just as they’ll be notified if other “known dangers” enter a school zone.

The cameras, which have been implemented in other counties and cities in recent months, including Henry and Clayton counties and Morrow, Jonesboro and Milledgeville, are not taxpayer funded, Sadowski said.

“It’s violator funded,” he said. “We’re not paying (RedSpeed); they sign a contract where they get 35% and we get 65% of the revenue from the violations.”

The tickets, which start at $75 then escalate to $125 for subsequent offenses, are significantly lower than regular speeding citations, which can cost upwards of $300, Sadowski said. Drivers are only cited if they’re going 15 mph or more over the posted speed limit.

There are no points awarded to speeders and insurance companies are not notified. All citations are also twice-reviewed — once by RedSpeed and once by the Duluth Police Department — for confirmation that the tag matches the car.

“(RedSpeed) gets an eight-second clip of the vehicle — a before, during and after — and they confirm the vehicle is the same as the tag, because sometimes the tag reader might think an ‘I’ is a ‘1’ or a ‘D’ is a ‘P,’” Sadowski said. “It’s a two-step process, and then when they confirm everything is accurate, they send it to us, where an officer then reviews it to make sure everything’s kosher on our end. We then approve it and (RedSpeed) sends out the citation. We don’t handle much of anything, and the payment is all done through their website.”

The four schools to receive the first cameras will be Duluth Middle, Coleman Middle, Mason Elementary and Chattahoochee Elementary.

“In preliminary traffic studies, these four schools together saw more than 8,000 drivers exceeding more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit on a single school day,” Sadowski said. “We expect that number to drop precipitously with new signage and a warning period coming later this year before cameras go live.”

The cameras will be installed over the rest of the summer and will be implemented shortly after the beginning of the school year.

Crime Reporter

Isabel is a crime and health reporter for the Gwinnett Daily Post. She graduated from Emory University in 2016 with a B.A. in international studies. She is originally from the Boston area.

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