Portland police crack down on speeders
By: Jeff Mill, Press Staff
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PORTLAND - The town may have a small police department. But the officers have a potent message: Speed and you will meet us. Count on it.
Prodded by residents, police have stepped up traffic enforcement throughout town, with an eye on cutting down on the number of speeders who use portions of the town as an expressway.
On Route 66 in particular, Lt. Ron Milardo said, some drivers have been pushing the limit - and pushing their luck.
"We've been getting people who were hitting speeds of 90-95 miles per hour out on 66," Milardo said.
That was before police began becoming a regular part of the landscape on 66. Now, Milardo said, "We have seen some decrease. The average speed is probably down to 80."
Better, but still not good enough, the lieutenant suggested.
"It's still too high," he said.
And it's not just speeding that is attracting the attention of police officers, he said.
"We're targeting cell phone use, and any moving violations that we come across: following too closely, running a red light, not wearing your seatbelt."
In particular, he said, "What we've seen lately is an increase in people who are using their cell phone while they are driving." That's illegal in Connecticut, which requires that motorists use a hands-free device.
But, Milardo said, when police have been stopping people for using their cell phones, all too often "we find that they have the Blue Tooth, the hands-free device, but they just don't use it."
The stepped-up effort to crack down on speeding and other traffic violations began last year, Milardo said. Throughout the summer, the department - whenever
possible - was keeping an eye on the Arrigoni Bridge and Route 66.
But when the summer ended, the complaints from residents about speeding did not tail off as might be expected.
"We got complaints that speed has been an issue in town in general," Milardo said. There were some areas that were of particular concern: Williams Street, Bartlett Street and Route 66, among others.
"The stepped-up enforcement has been continuing since the summer," Milardo said.
"This has been a continuous effort; we're out there two to three times a week," trying to slow down traffic.
In addition to the radar patrols, the department also staged a spot-check on Route 66 late last year that netted four alleged drunken drivers.
Again and again, the focus has been on Route 66, which in its four-lane configuration and even in the two-lane mode in the eastern part of town has become a place where some car cowboys try and air it out.
"We've been seeing more than our share of accidents, particularly out on 66," Milardo acknowledged, "and we want to lower those numbers."
To accomplish that goal, "We have been out there proactively, running spot-checks or we've had officers out there on overtime.
"We want to hit it hard, to slow down traffic when it's coming through town," Milardo said. "And we've gotten a good, positive feedback from the public so far."
A word to the wise, then.
To contact Jeff Mill, call him at (860) 347-3331, Ext. 221, or e-mail him at jmill@middletownpress.com.