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Officer posed as road worker to nab speeders

Suffolk police officer Chris Butler donned a hard hat and work boots for undercover speed enforcement. LT. D.J. GEORGE / SUFFOLK POLICE DEPARTMENT

By LINDA MCNATT, The Virginian-Pilot
漏 January 11, 2005 | Last updated 12:06 AM Jan. 12

SUFFOLK - Better take a closer look next time you pass a construction zone.

That man dressed in an orange vest and a hard hat might not be a highway worker, but an undercover police officer of sorts.

Suffolk recently coordinated an unusual traffic enforcement operation that nabbed 58 speeders on a busy stretch of U.S. 58 in just five hours.

Police wouldn't say exactly where the operation took place - that would give the whole thing away.

"I like to call him my traffic counter," said Suffolk Police Lt. Steve Patterson. "That's actually what he looked like."

An officer, dressed like a road worker, used a radar gun Thursday to track speeders and radio ahead to waiting officers in cars. The undercover traffic patrol was a first in the area, according to four other South Hampton Roads police departments.

"We can get sneaky and just hide," said Chris Amos, spokesman for the Norfolk Police, "but we've never done anything like that."

Suffolk police say the operation worked in an area where traditional radar operations haven't because of heavy traffic. In this specific spot, it can take one patrolman up to 30 minutes to clock a speeder, pull them over and write a ticket, Patterson said.

"We weren't trying to jam people," he said. "They've got to understand that it's dangerous out there, and speed can be especially dangerous."

Speed limits on U.S. 58 can get up to 55 mph, but many motorists exceed that, police said.

A Suffolk officer heard about the speed-trapping technique and Patterson saw it on a police television show where officers in North Carolina were using it successfully. He thought it could work in Suffolk, too.

In the recent operation, Officer Chris Butler, in his special garb, was the spotter. Butler looked very casual, but in his hand he held a laser speed detection device - something like a traditional radar gun, but a tad different.

"With this, you can aim on a specific vehicle," Patterson explained. "You can spot it on a headlight or a license plate, and it's going to tell you exactly how fast the vehicle was going."

Butler would get the numbers and radio ahead to seven "chase cars" stationed a short distance away.

Flashing lights.


Police wrote 62 tickets - 58 of the tickets were for speeding. Two were handed out for driving with a suspended license and two more for expired inspections.

Just because you don't see a police car on the side of the road doesn't mean an officer isn't around, said Lt. D.J. George, spokeswoman for the department.

The officer-in-disguise gig worked so well, George said, that the department is likely to try it again.

Who knows where or when?

Senior Member
1,334 Posts
Not a bad idea. Thats some good thinking... I bet there were a few drivers scratching their heads wondering where they got caught :shock:

372 Posts
In Florida, FHP used to take a very un-police looking vehicle, pull it to the side of the highway, and pop the hood. One trooper would lean under the hood with the Lidar with the chase cars up the road. Worked very well!
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