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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

5 Questions with B&W Sensors' John Baine -- The Guy Behind Those Danged Speed Cameras

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 10:25 AM

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His company has been compared to acne and derided as nothing more than a money grab. Still, these are heady times for John Baine, co-founder of Sunset Hills-based B&W Sensors. Just last week yet another St. Louis suburb announced that it would use his company's controversial speed cameras to monitor traffic and issue tickets.

In a conversation yesterday with Daily RFT, Baine argues that his company improves road safety while freeing up police for more important matters. He also had some choice words for St. Louis County Chief Tim Fitch (a vocal critic of his company) who Baine compares to the Sheriff of Nottingham -- ticketing motorists for $1,250 dollars compared to B&W Sensors' $100 fines.

Question #1:  Can you tell us a little about your company -- its origins and its principals?

One of B&W's mobile speed cameras.
  • One of B&W's mobile speed cameras.
One of B&W's mobile speed cameras.
Baine: Basically I had worked for company called Kustom Signals. They sold radar, laser, and in-car video (dash cams) to police and law enforcement. What I noticed, though, was that these police assets -- radar and laser -- weren't being utilized effectively. So, I got to thinking of a way to create a higher degree of public safety that might redistribute assets so the public gets more of what they they're expecting from police officers -- beyond traffic detail. Around this same time I met Tom Winkler through my brother-in-law. Tom is an electrical engineer by training who was working for Emerson on programs that helped fighter bombers identify and track threats during combat runs. He and I started discussing better ways of doing speed enforcement on our roadways. A couple years later -- in January of this year -- we launched the company.

2: You'll soon be in operation in five communities. How widespread will these cameras be in a year, or five years from now?

The basic underline mission of our company is better safety through technology. The Missouri Municipal League has endorsed the use of automated technology in law enforcement -- speed and red-light cameras. We're getting our message out knocking on doors and attending police shows and conventions. As more people hear about this technology and sees the results, the demand is only going to increase. The three communities now using our cameras have seen the average speed dip below the posted speed limit and the number of speeders going above the targeted threshold (usually 10 mph above the limit) have dropped significantly.

3. What do you say to critics such as St. Louis County police chief Tim Fitch, who sees these cameras as a money grab?

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