Radar Wars

By Pete Fisher

The wall of seized radar detectors clearly shows that people either arenít getting the message or donít care that radar detectors are illegal.

On a recent ride-along with Eastern Ontario OPP Traffic Unit Constable Marc Gallant he proudly showed the Wall of Shame at the Napanee OPP Detachment just off Highway 401.

"Weíve kept one of every radar warning device weíve seized over the last eight years, as a training aid and a Wall of Shame."

Radar warning devices have been illegal for over 20 years in the Province of Ontario.

A radar warning device can cost as little as $60 or up to $1,500 that can be built into vehicles.

On the Wall of Shame there are over 400 detectors including one of the first radar detector devices called a Fuzzbuster.

There are also solar powered radar detectors, radar detectors designed to look like a Global Positioning System (GPS), ones with a wood grained finish and devices so small they would fit in a cigarette package.

But lawbreakers beware, the OPP are using 70 radar detector detectors across the Province and warn they will get you sooner or later.

Constable Gallant works with a team of four other officers patrolling the highways from Trenton to Kingston. The radar detector detector in his unmarked cruiser can be positioned to face forward or backwards.

The device works by picking up the frequencies emitted by the radar warning devices and a tone sounds inside the police car.

During this ride-along the radar detector detector had at least 12 hits during the day traveling on Highway 401.

All boarder crossings are also posted that radar warning devices are illegal.

In the mid 80's a company in Ontario came out with the first radar detector detector OPP used for a number of years.

"It was a good device for itís time," said Constable Gallant.

"We were seizing just buckets full of radar detectors."

But radar detector manufacturers modified the frequencies that OPP were using.

"It was a real cat and mouse game for a number of years and the police were losing."

At that time he says easily half or more of the radar detectors people had in their cars were getting past the police on Ontarioís highways.

Constable Gallant said there is no demand in the United States for the radar detector detectors because in most States, the radar warning devices are legal.

But about five years ago, OPP came across a company from Australia called Stealth Micro Systems.

Police found their unit (Spectre Radar Detector Detector) was able to pick up all radar warning devices.

"Australia has similar laws to Ontario where they (radar warning devices) are illegal in most places and the fines in Australia are very, very significant."

Fines can reach up to $1,000 for driving with a radar detector.

The first fine in Ontario is approximately $170 and the detector is seized, but the Court can increase fines if the person is a repeat offender. Maximum fine in Ontario is $1,000.

The companies advertize their radar detectors are invisible and have stealth capabilities and canít be picked up by police.

"But sooner or later they wonít be," said Constable Gallant.

"There is not right now a radar warning device that we canít pick up in North America that weíre aware of."

He says not surprisingly at least 40% of the people charged with having a radar warning device are also charged with speeding at the time they are pulled over.

Most people having radar detectors fall into a high risk category for driving and are classified as aggressive drivers.

"More often than not, if I charge a person with a radar warning device and I pull their record theyíll have a far more significant driving history for rules of the road violation including speeding."

He said itís not uncommon to encounter someone with a radar detector going to court who has up to 30 charges on their driving history.

"The primary reason we see out here for buying these things is because they are habitual speeders - they want to go fast, they like to go fast and they want to reduce their risk level of getting caught."

In the past year, heís stopped vehicles with radar detectors traveling at speeds of up to 180 kph.

"Most people do try and hide it in the vehicle or somewhere on their person, but most of them do surrender it when their asked."

But he says a few people try to push the envelope.

"Some decide to play dumb and donít know what weíre talking about."

In extreme circumstances, people can face criminal charges if they donítí turn over the detector.

When officers spot the radar warning device in the vehicle, "our search is done - weíve found it."

"But unfortunately through either the Internet or word of mouth they think as long as they can hide it on their person before we walk up to the car they are free and clear - but unfortunately real life doesnít work that way."

Those people are obstructing a police officer by concealing evidence and are subject to criminal prosecution which is different from a ticket.

Every traffic team in Ontario including Northumberland County OPP has at least two Spectre Radar Detector Detectors and Constable Gallant said driving from Toronto to Montreal, "you can guarantee on any given day your going to pass half-a-dozen units."

While sitting on a on-ramp to Highway 401, the Spectre Radar Detector Detector signaled a vehicle that had just passed by was equipped with a radar detector.

Constable Gallant quickly identified the vehicle and caught up.

After activating his emergency lights the sports car pulled over on Highway 401.

A 28-year-old Bowmanville man driving a 1994 Mazda to Perth to visit family was charged with having a radar detector in his vehicle.

"He turned it over when I asked for it. He had it stuffed down the crotch of his pants. He knew why I was stopping him, thatís why he hid it."

He is an experienced aggressive driver with a number of speeding offences and admitted he bought it to avoid tickets.

Constable Gallant said heís heard all the excuses.

"It wasnít turned on or they didnít what it was. I had one person tell me it was a present they had just received and they didnít want to lose it."

The Eastern Ontario OPP Traffic Unit on average seizes 500 radar detectors a year, but itís not uncommon for the team to confiscate 20 detectors in a day.

The advice this veteran police officer would give to drivers that are trying to avoid the police by having a radar detector.

"With the technology we have, buy cheap because youíre going to buy often because Iíll be seizing them."

Acknowledgements: Pete Fisher is a freelance photo journalist. For more information and other articles of interest you may view Petes web site: www.nesphotos.ca

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