Troopers step up patrols

Troopers step up patrols
Comments (1 comment(s))
WOODSTOCK – Illinois State Police patrols have swarmed into McHenry County – from the ground and air – in a first-of-its kind campaign to get motorists to slow down and comply with traffic laws.

Although fatal crashes in Illinois are at the lowest number since the early 1920s, McHenry County is one of a few areas in the state where numbers are rising.

In 2006, the county saw 33 traffic fatalities. So far this year, there have been 13 traffic deaths. Police say that number is unacceptable.

Which is why the state police have begun a special traffic unit of eight troopers, who will patrol the county’s roadways throughout the summer and possibly beyond.

“We have no ending date in sight,” said Jeffrey Hedrich, Illinois State Police District 2 commander. “We’re not looking at pulling out in six months or a year. We plan on being there long term.”

Aside from traditional methods, police also will conduct roadside safety checks and seat-belt enforcement zones and even catch speeders by airplane.

The state police also are teaming up with the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department and local police agencies.

“All the chiefs in the county are aware this is an issue, and we want residents to be safe,” said Larry Howell, Lakewood’s police chief who also serves as president of the McHenry County Police Chiefs Association.

The state police launched the McHenry County initiative in January after a study of countywide crash data showed unwelcome news: accidents are on the rise throughout the county.

“What that’s attributed to is hard to say,” Hedrich said. “We’re concentrating our resources in McHenry County to get these numbers down.”

In their first four months in the county, state police issued 2,000 tickets and 1,250 warnings countywide. They have made 60 criminal arrests.

During the first few weeks of enforcement, Hedrich said, a trooper caught a man on Kishwaukee Valley Road, just outside of Woodstock, traveling 150 mph.

He was a commuter who probably never saw a police car on his route, Hedrich said.

“Right then, I think we realized it was the Wild West,” Hedrich said. “This is a striking example that our efforts and initiatives are going to produce positive results and improve traffic safety.”

Local officials said that traffic deaths probably were up in the county because of rising population and deteriorating roadways.

“We have a suburban population with a rural infrastructure,” McHenry County Undersheriff Gene Lowery said.

But traffic enforcement in something that can be addressed immediately, he added..

“Maybe we won’t be successful, but we have to try – we’re obligated to,” Lowery said. “This is our roadside bomb. We’re losing too many people out there.”

Drive to survive

This is a first in a periodic series detailing law-enforcement’s efforts to drive down traffic fatalities in McHenry County. Throughout the summer, the Northwest Herald will report on how police are using education, awareness and enforcement to combat dangerous driving. We also will report on the effects that serious crashes have on victims and their families.