New Pennsylvania Police Tactics May Affect Pennsic Travel

Police near State College, Pennsylvania are now using "camo cops" patrols to trap speeders, a tactic that could mean an unhappy Pennsic for some travelers.

Those SCAdians traveling west through Pennsylvania might want to watch their speed. After a 44-car pileup earlier this year, patrolmen at the Rockview Barracks have begun dressing in camo, arming themselves with radar guns, and hiding behind trees to clock the speed of unsuspecting motorists. The tactic has worked so well that other counties have begun using it.

Is there any reason that this...

Is there any reason that this is considered newsworthy? Ok, so we have camo cops doing speed traps. Big Deal. We have EZ Pass in NJ writing tickets if you hit the toll plaza's too fast, in Maryland they use arial VASCAR from planes and helicopters that can't be picked up on detection equipment (how do you detect a stopwatch?).

Just drive according to the local traffic laws and nothing will happen.

Every year we get this: Alert

Every year we get this: Alert! Pennsic-goers beware! Pennsylvania police may be enforcing PA traffic laws! I realize that PA laws and/or enforcement may vary from what people are used to in their home states. But I'm tired of seeing this sort of thing posted all over the Known World. (And of course complained about.) - Jadwiga

In principle, I agree.

In principle, I agree. The best defense against PA's speed traps is to simply not exceed the speed limit. That's the approach I personally take, because I have no desire to face PA's courts, and I urge others to take the annual warning notices as a hint to slow down.

On the other hand, I have personally witnessed "targeted enforcement" against SCAdians that I can only call harassment. One year, the PA state police sat next to Cooper's Lake Campground, literally just a few meters from the exit, stopping any car that had a Pennsic tag hanging from the rear view mirror. It turns out that it's against PA law to hang anything from your mirror, the theory being that it's a safety hazard to obstruct visibility even a little.

Now, they may have a point with that safety hazard thing. But how would out of state travellers have any reasonable way to know about this law? The PA police knew that most people at Pennsic would be out-of-state, and therefore would not know about the law. I would have completely agreed with them pulling people over and saying, "Excuse me, sir/madam, but did you know that hanging your parking tag from the mirror is against PA state law, and is a safety hazard?" 99.9% of the SCAdians probably would have said, "No, I didn't know that. Thanks for telling me." And they would have taken the tag down, thereby complying with the law and (at least in theory) making the roads safer. And you know what? Any SCAdian who ignored a courteous warning about the PA law, and later got a ticket for it, or who gave the officer a bunch of guff about the warning, would deserve that ticket and would get no sympathy from me.

But the PA state cops weren't issuing warnings; they were issuing tickets, and from what I was told, the fine was US$85.00. A ticket for such a minor thing, issued to people who had no reasonable way to be aware of that particular nuance of local law, was not about safety. It was about revenue, and it was about "teachin' them hippie freak weirdos a lesson 'bout how we do things down here." It was about quotas. Oh, wait, those don't exist, do they?

So, while in principle I agree that people should just obey the law so they don't have to worry about oddball enforcement tactics, I also think that since PA has a history of targeting out-of-state travellers, and seems particularly interested in Pennsic-goers, it is only fair that at least our people (especially those for whom it's a first Pennsic) get a reasonable warning that they need to mind their Ps and Qs.

Just my $0.02, worth exactly what you paid for it. :-)

—Justin