Kingsburg gets traffic-safety grant

The Kingsburg Police Department received a $46,000 grant to keep streets safer, which paid for a new BMW police motorcycle and a new radar gun. The grant, funded through the California Office of Traffic Safety, will also help to pay for overtime for officers working special traffic enforcement activities. The grant was awarded to Kingsburg Oct. 1. The department has applied for the grant in the past, but this is the first time the grant has been awarded to Kingsburg. Police Chief Jeff Dunn said his department will continue to apply for the grant in the future.

The Selective Traffic Enforcement Program grant is aimed at helping traffic safety issues to reduce injuries and fatalities. The grant activities will specifically target DUI offenders, drivers using vehicles without licenses, illegal street racing, red light running, speed enforcement and seatbelt violations.

Dunn said that the new motorcycle cost about $27,000. The new radar system, called a LIDAR system, cost about $3,400. The motorcycle has arrived, and the LIDAR system is on its way.

"Kingsburg doesn't always have a lot of money for things, so when somebody offers to buy us something, we want to spend that money quickly," said Dunn.

The department tested different motorcycles out -- a BMW and a Harley Davidson. The bike will be ridden primarily by Officer Alfredo Fuentes, who said he helped choose the BMW because of its features that will help ensure his safety.
Fuentes has already had motorcycle training but will have to go through LIDAR training to learn the new equipment.

"Somebody asked me if we're doing this because of fatal collisions in Kingsburg," Dunn said. "No we're not, we're doing this to be proactive."

The department is going to take a harder look at pedestrian and bicycle traffic as well. Kingsburg's high pedestrian traffic can create dangerous situations. Dunn said the police department will be looking at drivers not yielding to pedestrians as well as bicyclists and pedestrians that cross streets at dangerous times and places.

"We get calls from people by schools saying that they almost saw a kid get hit, and we don't want that to happen," Dunn said.

The department has two Kawasaki police motorcycles as well, but one of the bikes is having mechanical and performance problems.

Kingsburg police officers will be conducting specialized enforcement efforts throughout next year, especially regarding motorcyclists. Motorcycle fatalities have been on the rise in California, increasing 175 percent in the last 10 years. There were 204 motorcyclists killed in 1998, which has risen to 560 deaths last year.

"Every driver and every motorcyclist must get back to the basics: Drive sober, always drive or ride safely, buckle up and we will save lives. It's just that simple," said Christopher J. Murphy, director of the Office of Traffic Safety. "This grant will help make Kingsburg just that much safer of a place to live and work."