Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi APD vs. Me: The Hunt Begins

By Benny Villalobos

DECEMBER 1, 1997:  Let me tell you about the last time I got a speeding ticket. It was on Carlisle going north, and the day was cold. I was tooling down the boulevard, when what do I see but a motorcycle cop--dressed in his fancy black uniform, looking like a cross between a prison guard and a fox hunter--and he's flagging me down. With his military semaphore, he signals me over to the side of the road, where he swaggers over to my window. He has a face that is the color and texture of beefsteak. As if we were both character actors in some corny commercial, he leans in and asks me, "D'jou know how fastcher going?" And dutifully playing my role, I said, "Why no, officer." I didn't know it then, but the day would soon come when I'd miss encounters like that.

Two weeks ago, the Albuquerque Police Department unveiled its newest tool for cashing in on casual speeders like me. It was an unmarked, camera-equipped, computerized cop car. According to the city's Orwellian plan, these cars will be planted on residential streets, and when an offending vehicle whizzes by, they will detect the speed with radar, document it, take a picture of the license plate and--get this--send the driver a ticket in the mail.

These so-called "smart cars" are the latest in the APD's Safe Streets Program, a speed-trapping scheme that ostensibly began several months ago with those radar-rigged cherry-pickers along I-40. And, to be honest, I have a few problems with the whole plan, in ascending order. First, there's the fact that I got busted; I can only console myself with the fact that I lost fair and square. But then there's the fact that the speed traps began right after APD officers got their much-clamored-for raises; it's hard not to notice this timing and wonder if Safe Streets isn't some sort of APD fundraiser. But most of all, I take issue with these new radar cars, because they're just unsportsmanlike.

If cops are going to go after the teenagers who tear screaming down my street (who, incidentally, never get caught), that's one thing. But if they're going to hunt down us casual speeders, just going along with the flow of the traffic, hungry and in a hurry to get home, then I want it to be fair. I want Steakface out there in the cold with me, waiting. I want him to point that radar gun at me from his motorcycle in full view, like I'm the fox and he's the mounted hunter. I want him to ask me if I knew how fast I was going. Just him and me, on a level playing field.

And that's not to mention just how Big Brotherly these vehicles are. A car that tracks you down at home? How sinister is that? It's like the CIA, Bill Gates and Joe Polisar all joined forces. Or like David Hasselhoff started working for J. Edgar Hoover. My only consolation is that the city now only has one of these Knight Riders from Hell. Before they get any more, I'd ask that they not get too attached. Give a fox a chance.


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