The Delaware Police Department wants to partner with residents to discourage speeding on neighborhood streets.
At the Jan. 14 meeting of Delaware City Council, Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski and City Engineer Bill Ferrigno laid out plans for a neighborhood watch program to identify and deter speeders.
Participating residents will be trained to use radar equipment to determine the speed of passing cars.
They can then can notify police if certain streets see a high volume of speeders.
If they are able to record the license-plate number of an offending car, they can send it to police, who will issue a notice to the driver that they have been monitored speeding.
"The most-effective means of neighborhood speed control is to know someone in the neighborhood is watching you," Ferrigno said. "It's peer pressure."
He said some drivers don't even realize they are speeding until it is brought to their attention.
Pijanowski said police officers will work with interested residents in the coming months to roll out the program.
He said the neighborhood watch program was conceived as a response to local homeowners who aren't satisfied with current measures to slow down cars on residential streets.
"I noticed we were taking complaints and going into neighborhoods to run speed control, and it seemed there was only an effect when we were sitting there," Pijanowski said. "Then things would go back to 'normal' as soon as we left."
He said neighborhood watch programs have proved effective in other communities, both in slowing down cars and in easing the anxieties of parents whose children play on and near residential streets.
Pijanowski noted some roads are perceived to have a speeding problem even when they don't by Delaware's current standards.
Roads are determined to be within an acceptable range if at least 85 percent of motorists maintain a speed no higher than 5 mph above the posted speed limit.
"If (the speed limit) is 25 mph and the cars are going 30, 31 or 32 mph, that's an issue," Ferrigno said. "If they're going 28 or 27, that isn't an issue."
He said traffic studies on local streets show that the occasional speeder does not necessarily indicate a road has a speeding problem.
Despite complaints from nearby residents, a recent study of traffic on Hawthorne Boulevard that tracked the speed of 1,700 vehicles showed their average speed was 22 mph -- below the posted 25 mph limit.
A few cars were caught going 35 mph, but overall, Ferrigno said, "there just was not a speeding issue to be picked up."
Council members endorsed the new program.
"When people call us to complain, now we have something proactive that encourages citizens to be part of the solution," Councilwoman Lisa Keller said.
Residents interested in getting involved in the new program may call Delaware Police Department Community Relations Officer Rita Mendel at 740-203-1132.
Pijanowski said the nonprofit group Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25 has suggested another measure: providing speed-limit stickers in neighborhoods to be posted on trash cans.
He said studies show drivers tend to ignore signs they pass every day and are more likely to take notice of signs they pass just once a week.