City hopes to put speeders in check
Neighbors' complaints spur police to issue citations rather than warnings
By Emily Belz
Posted: July 12, 2008
Westfield police plan to crack down on speeders by issuing more citations instead of warnings following residents' complaints.
"I would have to think warnings aren't producing tangible results," Westfield Police Chief Kevin Jowitt said this week. "Getting a traffic ticket has an impact on someone."
Jowitt estimated that 38 percent of police traffic stops last year resulted in a citation. This year, police are giving citations 47 percent of the time.
Fines for speeding tickets in Hamilton County range from $129 to $229, but a judge could impose a maximum $500 fine in a court proceeding, according to Superior Court personnel in the traffic division.
Because Westfield has no city court, all speeding ticket fines are handled through the county courts.
Christine Dedon, a mother of three, lives in the Village Farms neighborhood on Greyhound Pass, where the speed limit is 25 mph.
"It's not uncommon to see people going over 40 (mph)," she said. "I wish they would give out more tickets, whatever they can do to slow people down."
Neighbors say many people use Greyhound Pass as a cut-through to area stores. The city's growth has placed pockets of subdivisions, such as Village Farms, in the midst of commercial expansion, creating high through-traffic and speeding problems.
"People tend to be more careful where they live than where they don't," said Jowitt. "It's a very consistent problem in virtually every neighborhood."
A school bus stop is right outside Dedon's house, and she has seen cars zip around stopped school buses, which makes her concerned for the safety of her children. The street has no sidewalks, so speeding cars are even more dangerous for children walking on the street to the pool nearby.
"The minute the police leave the problem comes back," Dedon said.
The city's Public Works Department requires residents to pay for permanent traffic calming measures such as speed bumps in their neighborhoods. Several residents balked.
"I don't know why we have to pay for our own traffic calming," said Dedon.
The problem areas are very isolated, Director of Public Works Kurt Wanninger said. In city traffic studies, the vast majority of drivers travel less than five miles over the speed limit, but drivers speed more on Greyhound Pass.
Jowitt thinks ticket writing might be a better solution.
"The problem with speed bumps is they penalize everyone," said Jowitt. "They're disruptive, like if you have a baby in the back seat."
If a neighborhood association requests it, Jowitt said, the police department offers a program in problem areas that includes notifying residents that officers would be on patrol during a specific period of time using an erected speed display sign and writing more tickets.
Brookside neighborhood signed up for the program and resident Larry Clarino said it worked. But he doesn't think the police should take ticket writing too far.
"If it becomes a profit-making business, then I'm against it," he said.
Jowitt said it hasn't, since traffic enforcement requires a lot of resources.
"It's just a means of getting the point across," the chief said.
Call Star reporter Emily Belz at (317) 444-5527.