Traffic enforcement unit to get boost


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In 2004, there were 18 motor vehicle fatalities, compared with six both last year and in 2007.

When the police recruit class graduates next month and finishes training, several current officers will be transferred to the Traffic Division, which lost personnel over the years.

Police Chief Gary J. Gemme said several officers have been trained on speed enforcement and accident reconstruction. Those officers will be moved to the Traffic Division in the spring and help enforce traffic, even as motor vehicle fatalities in the city continue to stay at a low level compared with years past.

A review of the motor vehicle fatalities in the city from 2004 to last year shows the number of deaths has decreased by more than half. In 2004, there were 18 motor vehicle fatalities, compared with six both last year and in 2007.

“What we’ve been able to do through our Crime Analysis Unit is identify those high accident locations and provide maps to the Traffic Division,” Chief Gemme said. “What we try to do is focus on those areas that have produced the most accidents and do selective enforcement in those areas.”

Traffic Division Lt. Timothy P. Walsh said hitting the “hot spots” by adding patrols and increasing enforcement, along with having a visible presence, helped lower the fatalities.

“We have less people and we are able to accomplish better results with less people,” he said. There also has been a decrease in overall accidents in the city in 2008 compared with 2007. Both the chief and lieutenant said state funding through the Governor’s Highway Safety Bureau helped increased enforcement. The grants allow the department to place more patrols in specific areas during particular times of the year.

Many of the grants coincide with traffic enforcement around the holidays. Lt. Walsh said his division also concentrates on activity from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. — the time frame most common for drivers under the influence of alcohol to hit the streets.

The department continues to monitor underage alcohol possession through the Alcohol Enforcement Unit.

“We’ve made a number of arrests involving young people in possession of alcohol,” Chief Gemme said. He believes that helps reduce the number of people who could drive drunk.

Along with keeping close tabs on areas with a high volume of accidents, police also monitor serious accidents involving pedestrians. The Police Department has done stings to ensure that drivers stop for pedestrians walking on crosswalks.

Traffic Division officers have also routinely patrolled areas around schools and bus routes to make sure those areas are safe for children going to school.