- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Police in the region yesterday began the second phase of an annual crackdown on aggressive driving, showcasing a variety of tactics and electronic devices, including a camera- equipped van that will be used in construction zones.

The van, part of the Metropolitan Police Department’s expansion of its automated traffic enforcement program, was displayed yesterday at the police department’s 2nd District headquarters in Northwest as part of the Smooth Operator campaign.

The campaign calls for police from the District, Maryland and Virginia to aggressively target motorists who are speeding, tailgating and running red lights.

The second phase of the four-part multijurisdictional crackdown began Monday and ends Saturday. The first phase, which lasted from May 22 to May 28, generated 55,189 citations and warnings.

Officials did not have any statistics about how much revenue has been generated by the program.

D.C. police Inspector Kevin Keegan said the campaign was about “heading [aggressive driving] off at the pass,” before it became an overwhelming problem.

“It’s everyone’s job to drive safely,” he said.

Lt. Col. Michael J. Fischer of the Maryland State Police said a case of aggressive driving could be sparked by a gaffe “as simple as drifting out of your lane and almost sideswiping the car next to you.”

In the District, motorists’ speeds will be flashed on an electronic display atop the van — the first of two to be added to the D.C. police’s fleet of mobile cameras, Lt. Byron Hope said.

The first van will be in service within a few weeks, Lt. Hope said. They will be used in work zones instead of camera-equipped patrol cars because the vans are more visible to drivers.

In Maryland, state police have begun using voice-activated technology in patrol cars, a technique that originated in New Hampshire, Sgt. Carl Miller said.

The technology allows the officer to activate the vehicle’s lights, sirens, radio and radar by voice only.

The equipment, currently in one vehicle, will be in four cars by the end of July and in 50 to 70 cars by the end of this year, said Lt. Walter Smith. The equipment costs up to $1,500 per car and $500 for the software.

Lt. Smith said police also are working on using the technology to check license plates.

Maryland also employs covert tactics such as placing unmarked Chevrolet Camaros on highways like Interstate 95. State Trooper Andy Johnson, who operates one of the Camaros in Cecil, Baltimore and Harford counties, said the vehicles are used for their speed capabilities and because of the “element of surprise.”

The Smooth Operator program began in 1997, with 18 law-enforcement agencies initially participating. More than 80 state and local law-enforcement agencies in the District, Maryland and Virginia currently participate in the campaign.

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