When it comes to speeding, lead-footed drivers often get caught and ticketed after passing a police officer who was using radar.
However, their downfall might also be in part thanks to BigIslandRadar.com, a private business and website founded by brothers Wilson and Jon Pepper.
Their 20 paid traffic consultants review citizen complaints of poor traffic control, dangerous intersections and speeding at various sites islandwide. Teams of approximately five consultants, accompanied sometimes by volunteers, observe and record traffic concerns using video, speed measurement and any other technical tools necessary. They do studies, as well as share the problems and solutions with the public on their website and at community meetings, Wilson said.
The information is also shared with the Hawaii Police Department via official complaint forms that BigIslandRadar.com submits, and hazardous road conditions are reported to the state Department of Transportation or county Department of Public Works, Wilson said.
“They listen to us and take action as required,” he said. “We’re very well-received by the community and the police department. We find the police department to respond very well to our observations, and we give them lots of credit for doing the best possible job given the lack of manpower and funding.”
Assistant Police Chief Paul Kealoha said the Police Department was unaware of BigIslandRadar.com until West Hawaii Today brought the business to its attention. To the best of his knowledge Thursday, Kealoha said police have not met or worked with BigIslandRadar.com owners or employees. Nor could the department vouch for the services Big Island Radar may be providing, he added.
Wilson was not surprised that a top police official may not know of BigIslandRadar.com, claiming he mostly interacts with police officers in the Traffic Services Section. Sgt. Robert Pauole, of Traffic Services Section, could not be reached as of press time.
Nevertheless, Kealoha said the Police Department is always looking for meaningful community partnerships that involve effective problem solving and help ensuring everyone’s safety.
Kealoha stressed there are various avenues to reporting traffic violations and concerns, including official compliant forms on the police department’s website and at all district stations. The forms require license plate numbers, vehicle make and color, time, date and location of where the violation occurred. Typically, the department then sends a warning letter to the vehicle owner informing them of what reportedly occurred and seeking compliance with the law.
In areas with chronic complaints, police will also conduct Community Traffic Awareness Program sign waving, as well as step up enforcement and education. Citations are issued when an officer observes a violation, Kealoha said.
Asked if the complaints forms filed by BigIslandRadar.com employees have resulted in criminal prosecution, First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dale Ross said, “probably yes.” However, she suspects no one is documenting it and said there’s no way to know for sure unless the police officer who observed the infraction, indicates BigIslandRadar.com’s involvement with the citation. She also added the only way the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney would get involved in speeding violations is if there’s a request for a trial.
Still, Ross called BigIslandRadar.com “a great idea,” saying it adds “direct value” and “helps the community in remaining vigilant in communicating and reporting concerns.”
The Pepper brothers, who live in Keauhou, possess computer science and traffic law enforcement experience. They started BigIslandRadar.com in 2010 to bring community awareness to serious traffic issues on the island. One place, the Sunset Subdivision near Lako Street, was particularly dear to them. There, they got tired of motorists speeding down the roadways and running through stop signs. By documenting and reporting these concerns to police, Wilson said we “took back our roads.”
Since its formation, the business has helped residents by getting police to go to various neighborhoods or areas, set up speed signs, follow up with an unmarked police cars and issue speeding citations. It also helped one motorist get compensation for a cracked car window, received when a truck documented without mud flaps kicked up rocks, Wilson said.