Monday, October 16, 2006

Speeders Beware

Staff Writer

Copyright 2006 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

SKOWHEGAN -- Shortly after 3 p.m. on a rainy weekday afternoon, Skowhegan Deputy Police Chief Rick Bonneau pulls off Madison Avenue and turns on his radar.

Within minutes he has his first speeder, a woman traveling 40 mph in a brown minivan.

"She just didn't realize how fast she was going," said Bonneau after giving the woman a warning in lieu of a $185 ticket for traveling 15 mph over the speed limit.

Excuses and all, speeding is an old problem that police are struggling to find time for as an influx of drugs is changing the law enforcement landscape, increasing bank robberies, burglaries and violent crime.

Despite that increase in many categories of drug-related crimes, police say that if you ask people about the biggest law enforcement problem in their town, most will talk about the guy who drove too fast down their residential road or the woman who flew by them on their way to work.

"You can ask any law enforcement executive in Maine as to what citizens most complain about and it will be speeding," said Skowhegan Police Chief Butch Asselin.

To balance that public perception with the reality of an increasing work load, police are reaching for new ways to stretch what time they do have available for speed enforcement.

In Skowhegan, Asselin said his department uses citizen radar patrols, police vehicle decoys and more speed patrols.

Bonneau spends two hours every day on speed enforcement and it is now mandatory for Skowhegan officers to write tickets instead of a warning for speeding in certain situations.

In Waterville, Deputy Police Chief Joseph Massey said speeding is a problem that his department also takes seriously.

"We certainly are seeing very consistent speeding on many of the city streets," Massey said.

Just the same, he said, his officers have to juggle their other chores to find time to run speed details.

Massey said there have been three bank robberies since March and four stabbings in the past month. In one night about a week ago, his department covered three burglaries, he said.

"We are being asked to do a lot of different things and we have limited resources," Massey said.

Thursday afternoon, he and Police Chief John Morris had helped serve a drug search warrant off College Avenue because of a shortage of officers, he said.

Despite the surge in drug-related crime, however, Massey said speeding remains a priority because it creates a danger to the public.

And, he said, when his department does speed details, the cruisers and flashing blue lights not only cause speeding cases to decline, but their presence also tends to have a dampening effect on law-breaking in general.

And while it is nice to arrest a drug dealer, it is also good to catch habitual speeders before they injure somebody, Massey said.

Alan Crowell -- 474-9534, Ext. 342

Reader Comments
Share your thoughts about this story.

Dale Earnhardt of Skowhegan, me
Oct 16, 2006 11:24 AM
The woman speeding on Madison ave must be an amateur speeder and DUMB! Everyone knows ya dont speed on the main dragways like Madison or North ave. Side streets and back roads are a different story, no one will ever bother ya,trust me

Deb Sirois of Norridgewock, ME
Oct 16, 2006 11:09 AM
Speeders beware how about drivers beware! Especially if you happen to be in the turning lane to enter Hannafords or Walmart off Madison Ave. Drivers will cross over the solid do not change lanes line and completly cut you off. People take a good look, the turning lane starts by the Ford dealership sign not at McDonalds. If your in the wrong lane please continue up to the next plaza turn around and come back.
Maybe the police should sit by the Prompto Oil place and watch for those making improper lane changes. As well as catching those speeding down Madison Ave. It would cut down on the accident rate at that light.

Ron Dexter of Skowhegan, ME
Oct 16, 2006 9:27 AM
Now if the State Police could just do something about the NASCAR wannabes on the interstate! I was being passed like I was standing still on the interstate on Friday afternoon.