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‘Watch out for the kids’: Mecklenburg County deputies cracking down on speeders in school zones

The message they have for drivers - slow down or be prepared for a ticket.
Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 6:50 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2021 at 6:47 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Deputies with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office are paying close attention to speeders in school zones.

The message they have for drivers - slow down or be prepared for a ticket.

Now, MCSO has started conducting traffic operations outside of several local schools in Mecklenburg County known to have a problem with drivers going too fast.

“I can pick up cars a thousand feet away as they come into the school zones. Once they hit the school zone, I target the car, put a lock on their vehicle with the laser,” MCSO Cpl. Ron Rose said. “Once I identify the vehicle, I call out what lane they’re in. The cars that are staged a block or so away, they actually go after the car.”

During high traffic times, the deputies use the LIDAR system to track drivers speeding up to 1,000 feet away. One of the deputies --called the “spotter”- tracks the fast-moving vehicles and then alerts nearby deputies on standby to pull the speeders over.

“We had drivers with no insurance, drivers with no operator’s license,” said Sgt. Garon Headen, Field Operations Supervisor for MCSO. “We had drivers, of course, speeding in the school zones...The main objective is to get drivers to slow down.

The sheriff’s office has been targeting high-traffic areas where there have been repeated speed offenses. In some cases, personnel with a particular school have alerted the office of issues and concerns they’ve been seeing with drivers in the area.

Outside of Northwest, deputies made 25 stops in just about 45 minutes. All but a few were due to drivers going too fast.

What’s worse: it’s a trend deputies say they’re increasingly seeing in several school zones in the county, with serious consequences.

“We have hundreds and hundreds of kids that are hit or even killed in school zones. The speed limit is 25; slow down. I mean, I understand you have to get to work but give yourself a little more time. If you’re running late, I’d rather you be running late than to hurt or kill someone out here,” Rose said.

The MCSO has conducted about five of these operations so far, including at South Mecklenburg High School and Long Creek Elementary School.

Of the 117 stopes, 98 drivers were issued citations for speeding. Deputies say they’ve even had a few instances of bus drivers going above the speed limit.

“The two times that the buses were speeding, we didn’t have a vehicle that was staged by that could pull that bus over,” said Rose. “It’s a school zone and you’re operating the school bus; you need to be following the law more than anyone else.

In the end, deputies said their focus is on making sure everybody gets to where they need to go, slowly but surely.

“We may be anywhere. Look out for speeders, watch out for the kids,” said Headen.

Deputies are also making sure to check for things like traffic lights and crosswalk signals during the traffic operations. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office has planned on performing at least a few dozen more speed crackdowns in school zones by January 2022.

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