$50K could open door for more traffic tickets
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
By Kristin Longley
firstname.lastname@example.org -- 768-4917
Attention Jackson County motorists: Be on the lookout for law-enforcement vehicles lurking around corners this summer as local departments crack down on traffic violations.
A traffic-study group made up of local officials is asking the county for $50,000 to fund a special traffic-enforcement project due to a steady decline in tickets. The Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on the measure tonight at its monthly meeting.
Sheriff Dan Heyns said 37,276 citations were issued in 2006 -- about a 21 percent decrease from 2004 and more than a 38 percent decrease from 2002. He said many local agencies have lost traffic officers, and police are giving out more verbal warnings.
The decline resulted in about a $750,000 hole in the county's budget, acting county Administrator Randy Treacher said, leading the Board of Commissioners and law-enforcement officials to examine what could be done.
"You don't lose three-quarters of a million dollars out of a budget and not look at that," Treacher said.
The general fund money would pay overtime for officers from various county law-enforcement agencies to focus on traffic enforcement starting this summer. None of the departments involved in the study is able to hire additional full-time traffic officers due to budget constraints.
"It's ridiculous," Jackson resident Heather Norris said. "Nobody likes getting tickets, but there's other things in the county that need to be done, like fixing roads."
Other residents said more traffic enforcement is warranted. Jackson resident Tom Rubenstein often rides his bike around town and would like to see speeders and reckless drivers taken to task.
"They need to start pulling more people over," Rubenstein said. "I don't want to get run over any more than the next person."
Police officers will focus on heavily trafficked areas and intersections that have seen an increase in accidents. Some of the intersections targeted for more enforcement include N. West Avenue and Argyle Street, and E. Michigan Avenue and Gorham Street.
"The intent is to continue our pretty good track record of safe roadways," Heyns said. "We want to get people to slow down and wear their seatbelts."
Treacher said there's a lot more to traffic enforcement than issuing tickets. He credits routine traffic stops for two recent multimillion-dollar drug busts on I-94.
"It's not just a revenue issue, it's a public-safety issue," he said.
Jackson Deputy Chief Matt Heins said he hopes the increased enforcement would eventually lead to safer roads and fewer citations.
"The purpose is to inform the public," he said. "We want to reduce the risk of certain intersections and educate the public about safety on the roads."