Police: Traffic crackdowns paying off
By BRANDON COUTRE - bcoutre@nwherald.com
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WOODSTOCK – A police crackdown on traffic scofflaws this summer appears to be paying off by driving down the number of traffic fatalities.

So far this year, McHenry County has seen 17 traffic fatalities. In the same period last year, there were 23.

“We’ve had a lot of sheriff’s and state police out really trying to slow down traffic,” said Sgt. Karen Groves of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department. “I think it’s starting to show.”

Early this year, the sheriff’s office and Illinois State Police launched an intensive traffic-enforcement campaign.

A team of six state police troopers has been devoted to patrolling the county’s roadways. They have written more than 5,000 traffic citations, said Capt. Jeffrey Hedrich, District 2 commander of the Illinois State Police.

Having six fewer traffic deaths is testimony to the program’s success, he said.

“I don’t know if six seems high or low, but those are six lives saved,” Hedrich said. “We’re going to push them down further. That is exactly what our purpose and mission is in McHenry County.”

The state police’s traffic-enforcement deputies plan to stay in the county indefinitely, Hedrich said.

“I see no end date in sight for the team leaving McHenry County,” he said.

New sheriff’s crackdown

While state police continue their traffic crackdown, so does the sheriff’s office.

Last week, deputies started a new program to catch drivers who drive away from court when their driving privileges have been revoked.

One of the first targets tried to be sly about driving to and from her Friday court appearance at the McHenry County Courthouse, police said. She was caught anyway.

Not having a driver’s license, Isela Gomez, 22, of McHenry, parked in a lot across from to the courthouse’s main parking lot and went before a judge to answer traffic charges that she had driven without a license.

After her brief appearance, police said, the woman left the courthouse, crossed the street, and drove off.

Little did she know that Friday was the same day that sheriff’s police conducted their first sting.

Gomez was pulled over and arrested on new charges of driving without a license.

Standing outside a courtroom on the third floor of the McHenry County courthouse, a sheriff’s deputy dressed in street clothes watched from a window as defendants left the courthouse. If those with revoked or suspended licenses drove off, a deputy was radioed for a traffic stop.

“It is something that we’ve wanted to do for a while, and we just made it happen this morning,” Sgt. Groves said. “We are definitely going to make this a routine to verify that people without licenses aren’t driving to and from the courthouse.”

Groves said police probably would target random courtrooms on a monthly basis.

During Friday’s sting, two people were arrested. Police had about 20 people on their watch list.

“We saw several people leaving as passengers who got picked up, so they were doing the right thing,” Groves said.