Today’s “dumb criminal” award winners

A little advice to people thinking of taking the equipment Pennsylvania police use to measure speed: where there’s a speed trap, there are police.

Pennsylvania’s speed trap law requires township police to place equipment by the roadside rather than use radar. Sometimes one of those gadgets is left apparently unattended. But — if you want to go by the letter of the law — it’s not yours for the taking.

Today’s dumb criminals are not the first to try to shut down a speed trap by stealing equipment.

The device they tried to steal is called ENRADD. It’s made of a pair of posts on each side of the road. The posts are three feet apart. The posts on one side transmit beams of infrared light across the road to receivers on the other side. When your car interrupts one beam of light a timer starts. When it interrupts the other a computer calculates how long it took you to go three feet.

These aren’t like radar trailers where the purpose is to sit alone and make drivers feel bad. ENRADD’s purpose is to help police write speeding tickets. If you see one, the odds are good somebody with a badge is nearby.

Our would-be heroes got caught before they could even get back into their car.

Luckily for them, the guy with a badge thought embarrassment was better punishment than a felony conviction. No jail time, just a fine.

You may have heard about California’s speed trap law. That’s a supply side law. It deters speed traps by cutting down on the supply of speeders. When speed limits are set properly, most drivers obey the speed limit.

Pennsylvania law controls demand. Cities can post low limits but without radar it’s hard to turn “SPEED LIMIT 25” into piles of tickets.

The law banning radar ticketing has been getting on local police officers’ nerves for decades. All the cool kids are writing radar tickets, why can’t we? Every session of the legislature has bills to give towns the same power to raise revenue as they have in other states.

Looks like cities are going to lose this year too. Instead the legislature is going to authorize ticket cameras on state roads so all the money goes into the state treasury.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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