They got rap star DMX, New York Rangers star Sandis Ozolinsh and Greenburgh secretary Briana Thompson.

If you're not careful, chances are good that they'll get you too.

When it comes to traffic enforcement, no other department in the Lower Hudson Valley can touch the efforts of White Plains police, who wrote 26,168 tickets last year an average of 72 a day.

"I should have known better,'' said Thompson, who got a speeding ticket last month on Westchester Avenue while heading to The Westchester mall. "I see them out there all the time, and it seems like they always have someone pulled over. I'm not fighting the ticket I was speeding.''

State motor vehicle records show that White Plains police issue more speeding, cell-phone and seat-belt tickets than any other department in Westchester, Rockland or Putnam counties.

In fact, they hand out almost as many speeding tickets as the Westchester County police and the Putnam and Rockland county sheriff departments combined and almost twice as many seat-belt violations. The number of traffic tickets written by city cops has risen by 81.5 percent since 2002.

A quota system gone berserk? An overzealous effort to pump traffic fine revenue into city coffers?

Not at all, police and traffic officials say. Mayor Joseph Delfino's Safe Streets initiative that began in 2003 has reduced accidents with injuries on the city's 138 miles of roadway by 33 percent and overall accidents by 6.4 percent as traffic into downtown White Plains has increased by 12.3 percent.

Public Safety Commissioner Frank Straub said the traffic-enforcement effort also has been a major factor in reducing serious crimes by more than 30 percent over the past three years.

"When I first got here, we constantly received complaints from residents and business owners about traffic issues,'' said Straub, who was appointed in 2002. "The mayor made it clear that there were concerns about speeding and other violations, and that it should be made a priority."

He also wanted to address how officers interacted with drivers during traffic stops, because he saw it as an opportunity to improve relations between police and the community.''

The following year, Delfino announced Safe Streets, an initiative that placed a departmentwide emphasis on traffic enforcement combined with motorist education.

The program dramatically increased the frequency of traffic-safety checkpoints conducted by police and the number of officers trained to do them. Police analyzed the complaints received from the public and, working with the city traffic department, identified problem areas and stepped up enforcement in those neighborhoods.

Early on, a flier with tips on safe driving and reminders about traffic laws was given to motorists at checkpoints and distributed at various locations in the city.

Police also met with school and neighborhood group representatives to tell them about the new program.

Now, speed, DWI and truck safety checkpoints are a common sight around the city, as are police with handheld radar or laser speed guns. Another technique is the use of solar-powered speed signs that show motorists how fast they are going.

While White Plains is slated to receive $1.6 million in traffic fine money from the state this year, Delfino's top aide, Paul Wood, said the money goes to the local court system.

"Traffic enforcement is not a revenue generator for the city and (money is) not the point of the initiative,'' he said. "The purpose is to make our streets safer.''

Traffic safety has become such a priority, Straub said, that it's discussed at the weekly COMPSTAT (computerized statistics) meeting, in which the department's top brass review crimes, share information on recent trends, redeploy resources to address problems and work out new strategies to address ongoing concerns. Every accident is analyzed by police and the city traffic department.

"It's pretty clear that the enforcement effort has made a real difference,'' said Tom Soyk, the city's traffic commissioner. "The city has seen a substantial increase in traffic volume. You'd expect to see increases in accidents and accidents with injuries in that situation, but we're getting dramatic decreases instead."

Using sensors embedded in the pavement at major city entryways to count cars, the traffic department was able to determine that on a typical weekday in 2000, about 150,000 vehicles headed into the downtown business district.

By 2005, after the completion of a number of retail and residential development projects including the City Center, that number jumped by 16 percent to about 174,000 cars per day. During the same period, accidents dropped to 2,535 last year from 2,799 in 2000.

Accidents with injuries fell to 481 last year from 677 in 2000.

"The numbers speak for themselves,'' Soyk said.

The Automobile Club of New York Inc. apparently agrees. The local AAA affiliate has given White Plains its top honor the Platinum Award for "outstanding effectiveness of traffic safety programs'' in 2005, while the police department received the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee annual Law Enforcement Challenge award, which recognizes outstanding performance in traffic safety, in each of the past two years.

Straub, whose tenure as commissioner has been marked by a sharp focus on community policing, said cops have bought into the idea that strict enforcement of traffic laws creates an atmosphere of order in the city that helps keep crime down. He said the high visibility of checkpoints serves as an overall crime deterrent.

"If you drive into a community where there's a high probability of having police contact, I think it makes you pause and consider whether it's worth it to bring a gun into that community or conduct any criminal activity,'' he said. "If we have a checkpoint set up in a particular area, you're not going to see burglaries, robberies or other kinds of crimes taking place in that area. "

It's a Thursday morning and officers are doing speed checks on a stretch of Mamaroneck Avenue near Archbishop Stepinac High School and Our Lady of Sorrows elementary school.

Flashing yellow signs remind motorists of the 25-mph school zone speed limit. Despite the very visible warning, the cops using a laser device that can track speeds on six lanes of traffic from 600 to 700 feet away are having a busy morning. After an hour and a half, they've written 25 speeding tickets, including one to a woman clocked going 56 mph. They've also let four drivers go with warnings.

"We use our discretion,'' Officer Al Watin said. "If someone's slightly over the limit, they may get a warning.''

The group scoffed at the idea that cops are required to write a certain number of tickets.

"I don't have a quota,'' Officer Mike Harrington joked. "I can write as many tickets as I want. Seriously though, this is about keeping people safe. And the bottom line is that if you aren't breaking the law, you won't get a ticket.''