March 2005  

Smile! You're on LaserCraft Camera!

It's a 25mph zone 24 hours a day, seven days a week around Atlanta's Morningside Elementary School. Yet every week more than 6,000 cars (and that's only going one way) go 10 mph above the posted speed a two lane, residential and school area. The potential for danger is quite alarming, unless there's some kind of speed enforcement in place.

And then there are the people constantly running red lights. There aren't enough police officers to catch all the speeders and red light violators...or are there? We're accustomed to seeing officers using laser guns on interstates and major highways, but soon that same kind of laser technology will catch other violators, without requiring an officer to be present.

Norcross-based LaserCraft Inc. is the designer and provider of laser-based detection and law enforcement systems. Begun in 1994, the company has become a recognized name among police forces all over the world. Currently, 80 percent of Georgia's police use LaserCraft's ProLaser III (a laser speed gun), designed and manufactured by the company and distributed by Kustom Signals, Inc.

Started by Georgia Tech graduate Scott Patterson and co-owned with Long Pham and Glen Robinson, LaserCraft is a full-service company, doing everything from design to manufacturing with the exception of distributing.

"When I started working here five years ago, we had about 25 employees. Now we have 40 employees and a new office in Maryland. A lot of companies suffered after 9/11, but we found ourselves thriving. We're known among law enforcement the world over for our products," said Debbie Trainor, program manager.

One of the latest technologies coming from LaserCraft is the laser red light enforcement system. Last year, at the request of the Gwinnett County Police Department, they set up a demonstration project at the intersection of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Singleton Road.

"LaserCraft has always had a very good reputation with us - we've used the ProLaser III for many years. When we put out a request for this demo project, we chose them and another company to do the project. The other company backed out, and LaserCraft set up the demo, at their cost," said Major Dan Bruno, a 30-year veteran of the Gwinnett police force.

According to Major Bruno, after the demonstration, the county sent out a proposal request for installing the system. LaserCraft had the most responsive bid and won the proposal. Besides the system at the Jimmy Carter intersection, they're also installing laser red light detection systems at Oakbrook Parkway and Indian Trail and Highway 316 at Winder Highway.

Once the systems are up and running, they'll identify red light violators using a version of the ProLaser III gun to detect if a car is running the light by monitoring traffic and the speed of cars approaching the light. The system then takes three photos of the offender: one when the signal turns and the car passes the white stop stripe, one as it crosses the intersection and another of the car's license plate. A ticket is then issued and sent via mail to the car owner. If someone else happened to be driving the car at the time, the owner can sign an affidavit saying they were not the driver and contest the ticket.

"LaserCraft has really led the way in above-ground detection. There are a lot of companies that run these kinds of systems off in-ground design, but that's very invasive and more loops have to be laid on top of the traffic light loops. LaserCraft spent a tremendous amount of time and money on this demo project and really bent over backwards helping us," said Major Bruno.

The company also is working on photo speed systems, similar to the red light detection systems.

"If a car goes a certain number of miles over the speed limit, the system will calculate the car's speed, then take a photo, and a ticket will be issued by mail. That frees up officers to be working somewhere else. Most cameras like this require loops in the road, but like the red light system, we install the cameras above ground. We've had systems like this running since 1997, mostly in Europe," said Trainor.

Along with detection for the police force, LaserCraft designs and manufactures mapping and surveying equipment, using a version of the laser gun. The surveying gun replaces the customary wheel and measures distances with a laser.

"We're continually working to improve our products. They're more accurate than radar, and when it comes to law enforcement, they free up officers and, most importantly, they promote safety on our roads," said Trainor.