Friday, December 04, 2009

4 DEC 09: Speedy Reader

You don't hear much about it anymore -- but the Evelyn Wood "Reading Dynamics" Course is still around. It promises to teach you how to read books at lightning speed, yet with complete comprehension. When Wood died in 1995, I assume the funeral service was over in less than 15 minutes.

There's something new in Columbus which takes "speed reading" to a whole new level. The Muscogee County Marshal's Office showed off a device Thursday that can read dozens of license plates every second. All they need to do now is combine it with the mechanical dog mascot, and "Robo-Cop" will be reality.

WXTX "News at Ten" reported the Marshal's Office received a $19,000 grant, to use the "MPH-900" technology for one year. MPH stands for "Mobile Plate Hunter." It is NOT intended to encourage you to outrun the technology on the highway by super-speeding.

Captain Curtis Lockette with the Marshal's Office said the MPH-900 can read 3,600 license plate numbers a minute. How many shoppers at Peachtree Mall could use a mere MPH-90 at this time of year, to find their cars?

The new technology is designed to alert law officers to suspended drivers and stolen cars. But the device isn't perfect - as a stolen car alert during an on-camera test this week turned out to be a false alarm. Apparently MPH-900 is too fast, even for the police department's office staff.

But I have a bigger question about the MPH-900 technology. Why does the Marshal's Office have it? Isn't the primary role of that office to handle paperwork for lawsuits, warrants and evictions? Are deputies driving through the Civic Center parking lot on hockey nights, looking for people who haven't paid their rent?

Shouldn't a device which reads license plates be installed in Columbus Police cars, instead of Marshal's Office cars? Or is Marshal Greg Countryman trying to show he deserves more officers, along with the police force? He lobbied openly for that last year - yet the Marshal's web site says nothing about applying for work there. Perhaps Countryman still recruits frustrated police officers....

Cases such as this may explain why Mayor Jim Wetherington lobbied so hard for an Office of Crime Prevention. The Director is supposed to coordinate efforts by the Police, Marshal and Sheriff. But the MPH-900 isn't really a prevention device -- so the departments apparently are allowed to fight about crime-fighting.

By the way, WTVM reported Thursday Columbus Police are still 21 shy of the "100 new officers" promised in last year's sales tax campaign. While 140 officers have joined the force since August 2008, 61 have left the force for various reasons. I think this means Columbus libraries now have the most experienced security guards in history.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Check "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of public safety....

If you are in law enforcement and aren't already a member of, you may want to go to the site and sign up. The information provided in their articles just may keep you from being arrested or FIRED for doing your job. It will keep you informed of Police Departments firing Officers for doing what they are paid to do because the departments are scared of what the news might say.

Brent Rollins

How interesting that this advice comes from a man who was fired from the Columbus Police Department. This is a rare case where misery does NOT love company.

We checked the PoliceOne web site, and found it has all kinds of news and information relating to law enforcement. Only a couple of old crime stories relating to Columbus are stored on the site - but you have to be a working law officer to check the site's forums, and exchange gossip about whom Chief Ricky Boren will promote next.

Let's see what else was worth checking on a chilly Thursday....

+ WXTX reported a three-ton weight limit now is in effect on the Brown Avenue bridge, between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Cusseta Road. This will affect more than truck traffic. Rappers who rent limousines may have to keep a couple of "posse" members at home.

+ The Enrichment Services Program began low-income winter heating assistance grants at the Liberty Theatre. One woman told WTVM she showed up at 4:30 a.m. to get help - which was smart, because she could keep the home heater turned off during the coldest hours of the morning.

+ Russell County School Board President Larry Laney told WRBL the board's big concern right now is dealing with a tight budget. Several other board members would agree with this - since that $64,000 buyout of the superintendent's contract seemed to come out of nowhere.

+ Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson announced he will resign from the legislature at the end of the month. I didn't realize until Thursday that Richardson's ex-wife had accused him of an adulterous affair with a lobbyist. Richardson may have been a political star in Atlanta, but he simply isn't Tiger Woods.

(Glenn Richardson revealed several weeks ago he attempted to kill himself. The House Speaker says he's battled depression for years, even as the Georgia Republican Party gained the most power it's had in more than a century. It sadly reinforces the view that conservatives are only happy when they have something to be unhappy about.)

+ WLTZ reported more than 12 percent of Georgia's households have no bank accounts. More people apparently believe that hype about the Mayan calendar and 2012 than we realize....

+ The Atlanta Thrashers lost to the New York Islanders 4-1. The Thrashers wore red jerseys at home - which is strange, since the team's promotions in recent years called Philips Arena "Blue Land." Maybe the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets finally complained to the league office.

+ Instant Message to Alabama Governor Bob Riley: I'm shocked - SHOCKED! You speak so loudly against gambling establishments, and then you make a wager on the Southeastern Conference championship game?! If Alabama wins, the Florida Governor ought to make you pick up his case of oranges at Victoryland.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: Thoughts on "El Zapata," and an e-mail about Pastor Cochran....

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