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A crackdown on speeding in school zones

Police lights. (Republic file photo)

In a rush? There's a ticket for that.

On Tuesday morning, Mitchell police issued 20 speeding citations during a two-hour span as part of a crackdown on speeding, especially near schools.

City officials said the effort comes as law enforcement officers put a special emphasis on ensuring safety of children in school zones, areas law enforcement has identified as problem spots as many parents in a rush to drop their children off at school each morning.

"We're really focusing on all of the different school zones in the city to encourage people to drive safely where kids are present," said Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg on Tuesday.

Mitchell officers were using handheld radar devices that look like binoculars. Rather than zooming in on objects in the distance, the device uses a laser to determine how fast vehicles are traveling. That officer radioed information about speeding vehicles to other nearby officers who made traffic stops.

The work is made possible through a federal speed enforcement grant, according to Overweg, and officers will hit all of Mitchell's school zones throughout the school year and "other areas in town we feel speeding has been an issue," he said.

"We urge people to use caution and slow down because we will be out and about doing similar patrols as the year goes on," Overweg said.

Officers participating in the patrol use overtime and are reimbursed through the grant, Overweg said. And there's no telling when the next patrol might be, as officers will conduct them at random times. But it's safe to say many will occur during "high-risk" times for children at school, such as before and after classes and during recesses and lunch.

Prior to the start of the school year, seven LED radar signs were installed around city parks and schools. Each sign displays two messages, "Thank you" when the driver is following the correct speed limit and "Slow down" when the driver is going too fast.

The signs are meant to be a reminder to drivers to be more cautious especially when driving in areas where children may be present, a move Overweg said has proven beneficial.

The Palace City Lions Club donated $15,000 and the Mitchell Elks Lodge donated $5,000 to help support the installation of the radar signs at Mitchell elementary school zones and city parks. Each sign costs $2,500.