Sheriffs Looking For Radar

Coast sheriff's departments will look northward this week to the city of Jackson where state lawmakers will once again look at a bill that would allow deputies to use radar guns.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol and city police can use the device, but once you leave the city limits and cross into what is county territory, sheriff's deputies are not able to use radar to catch speeders.

It's been this way for years but why? Because some feel sheriff's departments will use them as a means to set up speed traps and collect money for the department.

Julian Allen is a major with the Harrison County Sheriff's Departments and says, "The money doesn't come to the Sheriff's Department, the money goes to the Harrison County General Fund and the Board of Supervisors decide where it goes, again, I say Sheriff Payne's interest in this is to reduce accidents, fatalities that are caused by speeding."

Harrison County Sheriff George Payne says, "It is disgraceful to the citizens who depend on us for law enforcement and quality of life that we don't have this simple lifesaving tool."

Sheriff's Deputy Allen says the number of traffic fatalities outisde city limits illustratest the need for radars.

"In 1999, the county outside the municipal limits we had 22 traffic fatalities, that same year there weren't but 18 in all the municipalities combined which says there's a lack of enforcement out on county road," Allen says.

Here on the coast, municipalities are growing quickly, and so are neighborhoods on county roads. The complaints that the sheriff's department is getting from residents is that speed limits within the rural subdivisions aren't being obeyed.

"You go out in these neighborhoods now where there are lots of kids, lots of families out there," Allen says.  "Those people in those neighborhoods, they don't have that law enforcement protection, and they're worried about the kids."

Governor Ronnie Musgrove has already said that he will sign the bill allowing radar to be used if the legislature passes it.