Police step up traffic enforcement

By Sharon Woods Harris
Pekin Daily Times
Tue Apr 14, 2009, 05:00 PM CDT
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PEKIN, Ill. - Over the past two years the Pekin Police Department has been addressing citizen concerns over various traffic-related issues with heavier enforcement, resulting in more traffic tickets.
As of this morning, officers have written 305 traffic citations just this month, with a little more than half of the month remaining. That compares to 349 in January, 376 in February, and 480 in March, according to department records.
In the past, patrol officers were assigned to general districts within the city, said Pekin Police Public Information Officer Mike Sanders.
In an effort to further goals requested by citizens in a 2007 Pekin police survey, the department has changed its strategy to patrol problem areas. Now, under a system called directed patrols, officers are instructed to closely monitor a specific range of blocks in their designated district.
Extra squad cars monitor repeat problem areas.
Over the past few months, more and more traffic stops have appeared on Pekin Police Department arrest records. From April 11 through 13, there were more than 160 traffic stops for speeding, no signal, seat belt violations, DUI, illegal transportation of alcohol and other traffic-related stops, according to weekend arrest records.
According to the 2008 Pekin Police Department Year End Report that the police department presented to the Pekin City Council Monday evening, officers made 4,325 traffic arrests/citations in 2004; 4,550 in 2005; 4,349 in 2006; 4,702 in 2007; and 4,226 in 2008.
The new program is designed to target various traffic issues and prevent accidents, Sanders said.
“We are trying to be proactive,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of complaints of speeding. In the survey one of the biggest issues was speeding.”
Sanders said that crash rates will ideally go down if speeding is discouraged.
In 2008, 1,169 traffic accidents occurred in Pekin, representing an 8.7 percent increase over the past five years and a 6.8 percent increase over total accidents in 2007.
Pekin Police Chief Tim Gillespie said that the added attention to traffic violations is about safety, not money. The city gets $26.26 for every $75 fine paid on traffic tickets he said, and for seat belt violations, the city gets $17.36.
“By the time we pay our officers court time and pay attorneys, we lose money on some cases,” Gillespie said.
During his time as a patrol officer, Sanders sometimes spent three to four hours waiting for a traffic violation case like a DUI to be heard in court, he said.
Contact Sharon Woods Harris at sharris@pekintimes.com.