York police use grant money to help catch speeders
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York Police Patrolmen Nikolaos Piskopanis and Tyler Gagne work to enforce the speed limit on New Scotland Road. A hand-made speed limit sign was placed by a resident within the busy street currently being used as a detour route.
By Allison Knab
August 06, 2008 6:00 AM
The parking lot next to Beech Ridge Assembly of God is full of cars, but it's not a Sunday morning, and no one has come for services.
Instead, a gray SUV, white pickup truck, blue Volvo and black Scion all have been pulled over for going too fast on Scotland Bridge Road.
The Police Department has received numerous complaints about this area with regard to speeding, especially since construction began on Route 91.
During an early morning ride-along with several York officers on Wednesday, July 30, in a little over an hour, 22 vehicles were stopped, nine speed citations were issued, and three seat-belt citations were given out, along with seven other miscellaneous charges.
Sitting next to an officer in his patrol car — in this case, that of officer Tyler Gagne — gives perspective on the experience of being stopped for speeding.
For one thing, officers aren't exactly eager to be issuing tickets.
"I most certainly did not become a police officer to write speeding tickets, but it is part of our job — to keep them safe," Gagne said.
And there are little things every officer does that a person sweating — or cursing — in the driver's seat may not be aware of.
When pulling people over on the side of the road, patrol cars are parking slightly farther toward the road than the pulled-over vehicle to protect officers from oncoming traffic while they're out of their car.
As Gagne approaches each car, he places his hand briefly on the rear — both to ensure the trunk isn't open and to leave his fingerprints, he said, "in case the worst happens."
Walking up to a driver, Gagne stands just back from their window, in what is called the B-pillar of the car.
"You have the best view into the vehicle, and you're protected from the door swinging out," he said.
The whole interaction is videotaped by a system set up in the patrol car; officers also call in the vehicle's description to the station before exiting their vehicle.
Along with officers Luke Ernenwein and Nick Piskopanis, Gagne was working a special four-hour shift Wednesday thanks to a "speed grant" issued by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.
The extra speed patrols will run through September.
So far this summer, the extra patrols have resulted in 298 stops, 105 speeding tickets, 19 seat-belt charges and 18 miscellaneous charges.
The town doesn't earn anything off the tickets, though, as the fees go into a general state fund.
All the officers, including Owen Davis, who is overseeing the grant project, stressed that what they're looking for from the public and from visitors is "voluntary compliance."
"It'd be ideal if we didn't have to write any tickets at all," Davis said. "Our whole goal is voluntary compliance — we want (drivers) to think about it."
The department said the patrols are helping to address the No. 1 complaint they hear: people driving too fast.
"I've gotten a lot of calls from residents that it's slowed things down and made things so much better," Lt. Charles Szeniawski said. "We're going to work on another (grant) in the fall for safety belt and OUI (operating under the influence) and speed."