Mendota Heights rolls out new tool to catch speeders

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — If you think you can speed through Mendota Heights unnoticed, think again. You might even get a letter in the mail to prove it.

Digital meters along Marie Avenue West tell drivers their speed, as does Tom Hastings from his driveway. Thirty miles per hour is a pace he’d prefer, but doesn’t always see.

“This is a racetrack sometimes, 50-60 [mph],” Hastings said. 

His concerns, and that of his neighbors, are something the police department knows well.

“In Mendota Heights we get a lot of complaints, like that one, regarding traffic,” said Capt. Wayne Wegener, as a car sped past him along Marie Avenue West mid-sentence.

It’s why they’ve deployed a new speed trailer along the road that not only warns drivers how fast they’re going, but takes pictures of the license plates of those pushing well past the limit as they drive by.

“Capturing license plates allows us to contact the registered owners of the vehicles to notify them that they were speeding,” he said.

The speed limit on Marie Avenue West is 30 miles per hour. A digital meter on the trailer tells drivers their speed as they approach. It’s programmed to start flashing if they drive over the limit. It will then turn red if they hit 40 mph or more, triggering the camera to take five pictures of the license plate as it passes.



The owner of the car will then get a letter in the mail informing them that the driver was caught speeding. It shares the location and time of the infraction, as well as how much the fine would cost had a citation been issued. The price range is $125 to $275.

Capt. Wegener says the owner of the car often isn’t the person who was driving.

“We’ve had a couple parents call back and thank us for the information,” he said with a smile.

The public can also see the data being collected in real time through a website. It shows how many cars have passed by the trailer and the average speed of 85 percent of them. The average was around 38 mph Thursday evening. That data will help police determine if in-person enforcement of the speed limit is necessary.

“We were standing here last night once they put that speed thing up and there were people going through there are 49 mph or 50 mph,” said Hastings. “They didn’t hit any brake lights when they saw it.”

Many other drivers however did slow down upon seeing their speed Thursday.

“I think it’s a good first step,” said Hastings.

Capt. Wegener said nearly 40 warnings have already been sent out to drivers. The speed trailer will spend about a week on each street before moving to other areas of concern.

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