Devices designed to foil or detect police radar guns are now widely available on the black market in Vietnam’s major cities despite being illegal and of questionable quality.
Shops selling automotive assessories on An Duong Vuong and Tran Binh Trong Streets in District 5 have grown more discreet about the product after a shipment of radar scramblers from Denmark was seized by customs in mid-July.
They are still keen on selling them to customers who offer money up front.
“We have radar scramblers. But they are banned and will be seized by the police. If you want to buy, we will have them brought here. If you just want to see them, you're out of luck,” a vendor named Nhu at a shop on An Duong Vuong told an undercover Thanh Nien reporter.
She said the scramblers were imported from the US and sold for VND4 million (US$188) apiece.
“The device can scramble 11 different frequencies used by police radar guns, and has an effective range of to a kilometer.”
She offered discounts and three-month warranties for big orders.
Police radar guns determine a vehicle’s speed by measuring the difference between the frequency of an emitted signal and the frequency of a signal that bounces back from targeted vehicles.
Devices that scramble those signals are banned from export and import under Vietnamese government regulations.
After scanning a reporter from head to toe, a man at another shop owner on the same street said his devices were smuggled from the US in personal luggage.
He charged VND4.7 million for “quality devices” and also demanded to see the money up front.
“The [detector] can recognize a speed gun from one to two kilometers away. Then it signals the driver to slow down to avoid being fined.”
Similar devices are also available on many streets in Hanoi such as Le Van Luong, Do Ngoc Du, Nguyen Cong Tru, Bach Dang and Tran Quang Khai, for between VND2.4-4.3 million.
A vendor who introduced himself as Tan, whose cell phone is listed on a website advertising the devices, said his radar scramblers were imported from Singapore.
He charged VND2 million apiece.
However, several long-distance drivers called the devices junk.
Radar detectors came into use five or six years ago, one driver said anonymously.
But what seemed like a blessing turned out to be a nuisance as the device ended up being set off by broadcast centers and certain personal electronic systems.
Many users quitted after a short time since the devices usually delivered false alerts and dangerously caused the drivers to lose focus" -- Tuan, a car forum member in Ho Chi Minh City, said of devices advertised to foil or detect speed gun radar
Many drivers who installed the devices in their cars reported being caught by the police.
A city-based transport investor, identified only as N.V.L., said his competitor in the central resort town of Nha Trang bought five such devices several years ago but later removed them as “they made no differences.”
Tuan, a member of Otosaigon, an online forum for car owners in Ho Chi Minh City, said: “Many users quit after a short time since the devices resulted in lots of false alarms that created a dangerous distraction.”
He said most of the devices currently on the market are advertised as being made in the US, Germany, Singapore, or Taiwan, but most came from mainland China.
Police officers approached by Thanh Nien
said they'd never heard of such devices successfully foiling police radar guns.
An officer from Khanh Hoa Province recalled two occasions when their radar guns failed to give a reading while a vehicle was approaching their position, but worked as the vehicle drove away.
"A little bird told us that the cars were equipped with radar scramblers. We never saw the scramblers ourselves though,” he said.
Colonel Dao Vinh Thang, head of the traffic division at the Hanoi Police Department, said he'd heard about the devices but wasn't clear on how they work.
“We need a special agency to look into the devices to know if they can actually detect and scramble radar guns.”
Lawyer Pham Van Thanh of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association said Vietnamese regulations list the devices as illegal but haven't created punishments for those caught using them.
“We need to amend our regulations to deter the installation of the devices.”