'Wolfpack' operation catches 90 speeders
Thursday, August 24, 2006
By Scott Hagen
shagen@citpat.com -- 768-4929

A massive, one-day "wolfpack" hunt for cars zooming along local freeways Wednesday netted 90 tickets for speeding.

As many as 22 patrol units with the Michigan State Police were deployed along sections of U.S. 127 and I-94 to pull over cars and trucks flying through the county.

"There's a higher focus on traffic enforcement as the summer winds down," said 1st Lt. Jim Shaw, commander of the Jackson post.

"We're focusing on speed specifically because speed impacts a driver's ability. Their reaction time is shorter to situations that occur in front of them, and when crashes do occur, speed increases the severity."

Troopers from Jackson and other posts set up at hidden locations armed with a laser gun to gauge speeds. On Wednesday morning, one trooper sat on the exit ramp of westbound I-94 at Michigan Avenue near Parma with a nondescript minivan for cover.

He radioed speeds of cars and trucks going more than 10 mph over the posted 70 mph limit for cars and 55 mph for trucks. Other troopers, sitting only a few yards away on the entrance ramp to the freeway, lined up and took turns busting lead-footed drivers.

It was the same thing just a few miles down the road, where troopers set up near Gibbs Road -- in a near-invisible position behind a tree -- and nailed speeders, one who was cruising along at 105 mph.

And it wasn't hard to find other speeders.

Often the blue patrol cars and trucks -- all in the same area -- created an uneasy sea of flashing red lights for other motorists who heeded the unspoken message to slow down. For others it was too late.

Trooper Steve Rando was part of a westbound lineup of patrol cars just off the freeway entrance ramp at Michigan Avenue. It was only a few minutes before Trooper Darren Green yelled out across the radio: "Black Volvo, SUV, 82 mph."

Rando punched the accelerator and glided onto the freeway right behind the Volvo. She didn't offer any excuses.

"She said she was doing 80," Rando said.

He finished writing the ticket, drove down I-94 a few miles and pulled a U-turn through the grass median to join the eastbound lineup. Only a few minutes later he got the call for a black Honda Odyssey cruising at 81 mph.

At first, the woman either didn't know she was being pulled over or simply refused. A few seconds on the siren and she got the message. She stopped almost in the middle of the road. Eventually she worked over to the shoulder.

She was older and asked for a break. But she got a ticket in the end.

"That was a scary stop," Rando said.

Later in the afternoon, the patrol units set up laser sites in the eastern edge of the county between Mount Hope and Clear Lake roads.

Besides the speeding tickets, there were 14 citations issued for various offenses. One misdemeanor fugitive was arrested and three people driving without licenses were apprehended. The occasional operation could net as much as $9,000 in fine money for the county.

"It's an ongoing theme year-round to address traffic-related concerns," Shaw said. "I think also, when we conduct a traffic stop there's an educational piece in that. I know when I'm driving and I see a stopped car, I'm checking my speeds, too."