As some motorists may have noticed, you won’t find Cumming police officers standing on the side of the road with radar guns.
Police Chief Casey Tatum recently confirmed the department is no longer using speed-detection devices — and hasn’t been for about a year.
According to Tatum, the department dropped the practice under his predecessor, Scott Burgess, who left the post in February 2012 due to health concerns. Burgess had served as interim and then permanent chief since 2009.
“It was done under the previous administration and Chief Burgess was here at that particular time and it’s just still been going on,” Tatum said.
He added that the shift away from the radar devices was a way for the department to be more efficient and effective in its main goal of reducing wrecks.
Speed is a contributing factor in “very few of our accidents,” Tatum said. “Most of it is following too close, improper lane changes or disregarding a traffic signal, something like that … speed doesn’t apply a lot to the accidents.
“And that’s what’s supposed to be the goal is to reduce traffic crashes. And if speed’s not a major contributing factor, then why have somebody sitting out there running speed detection instead of somebody looking for somebody doing these other violations that are a major contributing factor.”
City Administrator Gerald Blackburn agreed.
“[Cumming’s] a small town and it’s got lots of red lights for the size of town it is,” Blackburn said. “Within itself, it’s just automatically set up in a way where you don’t have that much of an opportunity to create a lot of speed in town.”
While small towns can sometimes become known as speed traps, Blackburn said he and other city officials didn’t want that for Cumming.
“We don’t want anybody to think that the city … is a speed trap,” he said. “We don’t want to be looked on by people that are coming through as a speed trap.”
As for the revenue tickets generated by speed-detection devices may have brought in, Tatum said there hasn’t been a big drop-off since the department stopped using radar.
“It’s not caused a ton of impact, no, because [officers] have offset that with other citations,” he said.
Blackburn noted that the police force was not established to be a revenue-producing department.
“It’s a service department and that’s where the emphasis is put by the elected officials of the city of Cumming,” he said. “One of the things that I have heard our elected officials say is, ‘We’d rather see you [as a police officer] helping somebody with a flat tire than writing a ticket.’”
But both Tatum and Blackburn were quick to point out that it’s still possible to get a speeding ticket in Cumming.
“They don’t have to have radar to write tickets and nobody is restricting those officers and saying, ‘Don’t write tickets,’” Blackburn said.
Added Tatum: “Now if [officers] see somebody that’s obviously speeding and weaving in and out of traffic, yes, they’re going to stop them. And that constitutes reckless driving, so it all balances out.”