AUGUSTA — “How are you, Sgt. Dubois?” asked the woman behind the wheel in a red Chevy Cobalt.

Being called by name sent police Sgt. Richard Dubois’ mind scrambling.

“She said, ‘You want to know the truth?’ I read your name tag,’ ” Dubois said later.

The woman told Dubois she was a grandmother. A great-grandmother.

All in hopes she would not get a ticket for driving 45 mph in a 25-mph zone on Western Avenue.

It didn’t work. Dubois returned to his cruiser, wrote out the ticket and returned to the Cobalt to deliver the bad news.

“She said, ‘Oh boy! $185,'” Dubois recounted. “‘Don’t you give anyone a break?'”

The woman did get a break: 20 mph over the speed limit is actually a $215 fine.

The driver of the red Cobalt was one of 58 drivers who got a ticket in three hours during a traffic detail conducted by five Augusta police officers Friday morning on Western Avenue.

The fastest driver clocked in at 48 mph — 23 mph over the limit. The “slowest” speeder given a ticket was driving 38 mph, which could result in a $137 fine.

Augusta police received a Maine Department of Public Safety grant of approximately $5,000 to conduct six to eight speed-control details throughout the summer.

The police department invited a reporter from the Kennebec Journal to observe Friday’s detail. Because most speeding infractions are misdemeanors, and because those given tickets Friday are not guilty until they answer the complaints, the newspaper is withholding the names of those who got tickets Friday.

Police Sgt. Christopher Shaw, who organized Friday’s detail, estimated the average speeder nabbed during the detail was driving 42 mph — a $185 fine.

“For some people, the speeding is not intentional,” Shaw said. “They’re just not paying attention.”

Some of the details funded by the grant involve a single officer specifically assigned the task of checking for speeders.

Others details, including Friday’s, involve several officers — one of whom remains stationary using a laser gun to target vehicles suspected of speeding, with the remaining officers lined up nearby, waiting to pursue.

Sitting in a parked unmarked sport utility vehicle behind a sign at Pike Street and Western Avenue, Shaw scanned approaching traffic, looking for someone moving quicker than the rest.

There was no shortage of targets.

“A lot of times, we take the leader of the pack,” Shaw said. “They’re the ones setting the pace for everyone else.”

When a speeder is detected, Shaw uses his radio to provide the speed, vehicle description and time of day to the next pursuing officer in line.

Only one of the vehicles pulled over Friday was traveling less than 15 mph over the speed limit, and only westbound drivers were targeted.

“I’ve been doing this 18 1/2 years,” Dubois said. “On Western Avenue, you can sit anywhere and write lots of tickets.”

Quite often, all four officers were involved with a stop even as Shaw clocked dozens more speeding vehicles that got away simply for lack of manpower.

“We have about 40 vehicles in two hours,” Shaw said. “I’ve probably turned away twice as much.”

One was a brown, three-quarter-ton pickup truck.

The driver was given a ticket for driving 18 mph over the speed limit — a fine of $185 — even as he talked cordially with Dubois throughout.

“He was fine,” Dubois said. “Most people are.”

One woman, driving a Honda Pilot with two young children in back, pulled over in the Big Apple parking lot. At first, the woman didn’t want to sign the $185 summons charging her with driving 15 mph over the limit.

That’s not uncommon, Dubois said. People sometimes think their signature is an admission of guilt.

“It’s just acknowledging you received the summons,” Dubois said.

The Pilot driver told Dubois she didn’t know why he had pulled her over.

He told her she was driving 15 mph over the limit.

“She said something under her breath,” Dubois said. “I couldn’t hear her.”

Shaw said he has heard the excuses from speeding drivers and the complaints of those who ask sarcastically why police aren’t doing something better with their time.

“My response is that we are doing the better thing,” Shaw said. “We have to look out for the safety of everyone.”

Moments later, a woman walked across all four lanes of Western Avenue, forcing several vehicles to slam on their brakes. Not long after that, a driver made a U-turn in the middle of the avenue.

“And you wonder why it’s 25 miles per hour through here?” Shaw said.

Ideally, Shaw said, police would not have written any tickets Friday.

“We’re out here for voluntary compliance,” he said. “We’re trying to get people to slow down voluntarily so we don’t have to give them a ticket.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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