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Police using newer technology to catch speeders

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- By now, you've likely seen ramped-up police patrols on Memphis interstates.

WREG recently reported on MPD's increased presence on the roadways.

The News Channel 3 Investigators have also learned police are using newer technology, and drivers could be more likely to get a ticket.

Drivers riding along Union Avenue had no idea they were in the crosshairs of a gun, a laser gun.  It's the latest weapon of choice for police to catch speeders.

Luckily for drivers that day, it was just a demo.

Memphis Police showed the News Channel 3 Investigators how they're using the latest technology to crack down on drivers going too fast.

Col. Samuel Hines talked with WREG about how MPD is now using laser guns instead of radar on the roads.

"It's just better enforcement of traffic laws and the overall thing is to get people to slow down," Hines said of the technology, often referred to as LIDAR or LADAR.

You've heard of the term "laser focused"? Well, without getting too technical, that's a good way to understand how the technology works.

"With the laser you can get a very small point, you can get the exact precise point on a car," Hines explained.

This works differently than the old radar guns, which rely on a beam that could include several cars.

"People say it wasn't my car, I was back here, and most of the time, with the laser, you can spot the car well before the car ever sees you," Hines added.

During the demonstration, another officer showed WREG cameras exactly that. He said of a vehicle, "I clocked him before he actually entered the intersection back there."

The department has roughly 90 guns spread out at each precinct.

While the technology isn't brand new, Memphis has spent the past year or so phasing in the laser guns.

Besides accuracy, the lasers can also measure distance, can be mounted or handheld, and there's even an inclement-weather setting.

Laser also makes it easier to catch multiple speeders at a time.

If there's a downside for law enforcement, it's cost. Laser is more expensive than radar.

Prices range from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the model.

Like several other departments across the region, MPD used grant money from the Governor's Highway Safety Office to buy its laser guns.

Hines said its a better investment in the long run.

"It's just like a computer, you can update the software, so you don't have to change out the gun itself simply because the technology has gotten old."

Speaking of money, Hines shoots down the ever popular theory that traffic enforcement is simply a revenue booster.

"We're really trying to save a life."

He said if the stop happens on the front end, it could prevent police from having to show up on the back end, after a crash.

"Sometimes I know people look at it from the standpoint of they may have to pay money when they get a ticket, but the overall objective here is to slow everybody down and make the roads safer," Hines said.

Memphis isn't the only agency now using laser.

Cities like Bartlett and Collierville are also using them.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol also confirmed with WREG it's using laser as well.

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