CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Starting next month, if you speed through a school zone during school hours in Chesapeake, you should expect a violation notice in the mail.
The Chesapeake Police Department announced Thursday its plans to install up to 12 speed cameras in school zones across the city in an effort to discourage speeders and increase safety.
The cameras will work much like existing red-light cameras do, where violators receive their tickets in the mail and are asked to pay a civil penalty. In the case of the cameras in school zones, going 10 mph over the speed limit will land you a $100 fine.
While Chesapeake will be the first city in the region to start such a program, it already appears they will not be the last.
Officer Mark Lawrence with the Chesapeake Police Department recently appeared on Chesapeake Television’s cable channel and explained initiative was born out of a need to better protect those students and staff who walk and help walkers get to school.
“Safety of the kids — that’s absolutely number one paramount,” Lawrence said. “Number two, we have the police officers and these traffic guards in the area. Their safety is paramount too. We have had some crossing guards and police officers struck directing traffic in the school zones.”
Under state law, school zones are designated as roadways in the vicinity of a school within 600 feet of the school property line. The speed limit must be limited from 15 to 25 mph. In 2020, the General Assembly passed a law allowing for the use of speed-camera technology in both school zones and work zones.
Chesapeake’s 2022 fiscal budget contained $1.3 million to launch the program. Lawrence said revenues from the fines will go back into the program as well as other police department initiatives such as the implementation of the body-worn cameras on officers.
Initially, cameras will be set up at 10 school zones. There will also be two mobile camera units Lawrence said. All photo-enforced school zones will be clearly identified with signs and flashing lights.
For the first 30 days of the activation of each camera, vehicle owners will receive strictly warnings.
The department did not identify where the cameras will be located yet, but say locations could change based on what they find.
If it’s anything like the nine red light cameras the city currently has, cameras will be busy. Between July 1 2019 and June 30, 2020, nearly 27,000 citations were issued.
Norfolk and Suffolk are also looking at the new program that also allows for work zone cameras.
In December, Norfolk City Council voted to allow the speed cameras. A request to Norfolk Police for a status update on the program was not immediately returned.
Wednesday, Suffolk City Council explored the possibility of adding not only the speed cameras but also red light cameras and cameras on school buses. The city currently has no traffic enforcement-related camera programs.
“I’m sure that everyone will be more than happy to see something done,” Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett said.