Norton police caught a lot of people speeding on Interstate 76 as part of its controversial photo-enforced radar program.

A lot.

From Sept. 10 through Oct. 31, Norton issued 9,352 civil violations for speeding. At $200 a ticket, motorists racked up $1.8 million worth of fines.

The city on Tuesday released some statistics on the program, which city leaders say was designed to slow down motorists in a dangerous construction zone and reduce the number of crashes on the highway. However, they've been accused by some of creating a speed trap and trying to raise revenue.

Here are some key details:

• The top speed recorded was 107 mph. The second-fastest was 100 mph. The speed limit in the active construction zone is 55 mph.

• Twenty-six percent of the speeding violations involved people traveling at least 70 mph or more. Motorists were given citations if they were going 65 mph or faster.

• Ninety-eight percent of the violations were mailed to Ohio addresses. Only 299 violations, or 3.2 percent, were sent to Norton addresses.

"The numbers are disturbing," Police Chief John Dalessandro said. "I never thought we'd see these numbers.

"The speeds are scary," he added. "We're just trying to get people to slow down."

Police said the program appeared to make a difference when it comes to accidents. Authorities responded to 117 crashes on the highway from January through September, an average of 13 a month. But there were only six accidents in October, the first full month the new speed program was under way.

The speed limit has been returned to 65 mph by the Ohio Department of Transportation as the construction work has been completed for the season.

Norton also announced Tuesday that the photo-enforced program has been temporarily suspended, effective Monday, for the winter season and officers would be doing traditional speed enforcement work along I-76. The program is expected to return in the spring when active construction begins again.

City officials have said the program would be in place only during construction season and will end when the construction ends. ODOT has been widening the highway to three lanes in each direction and the project is expected to be completed next year.

Dalessandro convinced City Council to approve a deal with Blue Line Solutions of Chattanooga, Tenn., to use the company's DragonCam along the highway. Officers stood on bridges above the highway for three-hour periods each day and pointed the DragonCam at traffic.

The device, attached to an iPad, determines the speed of offenders, snaps a picture of the license plate and driver, and sends the information remotely to the company.

Speeders later receive civil violations through the mail. The fines do not affect licenses like regular police-issued tickets.

Norton receives 60 percent of the revenue generated, with the remainder going to the company. The first $250,000 collected is earmarked to pay for the program and school resource officers, with additional money going for street improvements.

It's unclear how much money the city will actually collect. Some people may opt not to pay. People also are permitted to appeal the citations through the city.

Not everyone is a fan of the photo-enforced program. 

Fairlawn attorney Kevin J. Breen took out an advertisement in the weekly Post newspapers saying he'd be happy to represent anyone caught speeding on I-76 in Norton.

"It has generated a lot of response," Breen said about the advertisement.

He said he has received about 50 phone calls from people — with their reactions ranging from anger to curiosity. He said some people have received multiple violations.

He added that he is just starting to examine the issue and has many questions.

"What I'm looking at is whether or not this is a lawful or constitutional way to accomplish the stated goal out there," Breen said.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.