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      Mysterious black box raising questions

      A mysterious black box, chained to a tree in Traverse City, is raising questions. Residents are wondering what it is and where it came from.

      The hard-plastic case showed up seemingly out of the blue.

      â??I noticed the box about two or three weeks ago hanging on the tree on our street,â?? said Dan Pearson. â??I have no clue what it is and I'm really wondering about that.â??

      It's chained and locked securely to the tree.

      â??It doesn't look too threatening, but they sure have it locked up tight so nobody can open it,â?? said Martin Jackier.

      City engineering officials chained the black box to a tree in a Traverse City neighborhood without telling anybody what it is.

      â??I have no idea why it's up here. My guess, it's on a maple tree and they've been having a disease,â?? posed Jackier.

      â??I guess if I lived around here and I saw that on the tree, I'd worry,â?? said Rob Weiler. â??It could be a bomb or some sort of surveillance device or who knows what. But if I lived around here, I'd sure want to know what it is. It's chained to the tree so it must be valuable.â??

      â??At first I thought it might be a speed sensor or something like that,â?? said Pearson. â??But it's just a locked up black box, so that wouldn't make any sense.â??

      Sense or no sense, Pearson is on the right track.

      The boxes contain a radar-based device that measures the number and speed of vehicles passing by.

      â??I think the city, part of their job, is to monitor traffic patterns and figure out what kind of devices we need to make people do what they're supposed to do,â?? said Jakier.

      It's a system the city uses in an attempt to be a little more discreet, to keep people from changing their driving habits.

      â??I'm used to seeing the strips across the road where they count traffic,â?? said Weiler. â??I think that people would be more likely to slow down for that than they were for the strips across the street.â??

      Fewer people know about the black box sensors. Some say that mystery allows for more realistic readings.

      â??If everybody knew that it was a speed sensor, people would drive a little slower and you wouldn't get accurate data,â?? said Pearson.

      Neighbors say a traffic study is a good idea, regardless of the method.

      â??They go too fast down here, it's true,â?? said Beatrice Priest.

      â??There's a lot of children in these neighborhoods and you don't want people speeding,â?? said Jackier.

      More of these boxes could show up in Traverse City soon. Keep in mind that city officials are looking for accurate data. So instead of changing your habits, just keep doing what you're doing.