ITEAM: speed trap or needed surveillance in Independence?

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INDEPENDENCE, OH - When it comes to catching high-speed drivers, law enforcement officers have mastered the art of hiding in plain sight. A case in point: the city of Independence.  Their preferred place for setting up shop along the interstate is I-77 northbound just past the Chestnut Bridge overpass.

“They`re either hiding behind the bridge,” said Jim Boulas, a Broadview Heights personal injury attorney, “Which kind of irks me because they`re not really there to deter people but rather to catch the speeders.”

Boulas said he travels 77-north at least three times a week on his way to court in downtown Cleveland.  He's certain officers position themselves behind the bridge support column so they can't be seen.

“Generally a lot of times it`s driven by where there are areas where the officer can safely position the cruiser to avoid oncoming traffic,” countered Michael Kilbane, Chief of Police for the city, “And to make sure he`s far enough off  the road.”

Kilbane denied his officers were running a “Sneaky Speed Trap” on 77, north of Pleasant Valley, even if it did appear patrol personnel were hiding.

“We do full visibility traffic enforcement, when we`re doing it, the officer and his cruiser, which is a fully marked cruiser with lights, is gonna be visible from the approach,” said the Chief.

'Why do you focus on 77 near Rockside Road?” asked Fox8 ITEAM reporter Lorrie Taylor.

“We look at where the most crashes occur and we especially focus on areas where there are potential for injuries or fatalities and we concentrate our traffic enforcement efforts there,” said Kilbane.

Sergeant Dan Anders described the kind of risk he’s seen speeders taking while shooting laser on 77-north.

“Clocked a guy at 100 miles per hour, the next week I got him at 100," reported Anders.

The chief insisted safety and education were the primary reason for traffic enforcement along the stretch of I-77 between Pleasant Valley and Rockside Roads.

“I want my officers to have personal contact with that violator,” he told Taylor.

He said it was also the reason the public won't see his officers using photo enforcement.

'We`ve also discovered drivers that are under suspension or have active warrants for their arrest,” said Kilbane, “We`ve recovered stolen cars, and we`ve also made many DUI arrests."

A review of traffic stops over a 90 day period from October to January showed Independence officers cited 195 motorists for speeding.  72 of them were charged with additional crimes, like driving drunk, possession of drugs and driving with suspended licenses.

“You usually have a slowdown of traffic when you`re going through that stretch” recalled Boulas, who said he didn’t doubt the presence of Independence officers made the area safer.

Chief Kilbane said it was the only reason they were there.

“We`re looking at it solely from where are people going to get hurt and killed and how can we stop that from occurring,” said the Chief.