Windham Police increasing holiday patrols -- The Independent

Windham Police increasing holiday patrols

By Emily Parkhurst

The Windham Police Department received $7,180 in funds from the Bureau of Highway Safety to ramp up patrol efforts during the holidays. According to the Maine State Police, $270,827 is being shared by 38 police agencies to fund seatbelt, drunk driving and speed enforcement efforts now through New Year's Eve.

Patrol Sergeant David Thomas, who wrote Windham's grant application, said that the extra money will help pay for overtime and extra details until after the holidays.

''We've already run nine details now,'' he said.

Thomas explains that the efforts are part of a national seatbelt enforcement push, which began on Nov. 16 and goes through Nov. 30.

''These are high visibility patrols,'' Thomas said, adding that the patrols are meant to encourage people to buckle their seatbelts.

''I stopped a young man the other day for no seatbelt. It was his fourth violation,'' Thomas said. ''I've had other people say it should be their choice. Some people say they have medical problems. I've only had one person actually produce a doctor's note.''

Thomas said some people who have had recent heart or shoulder surgery, or people with respiratory problems, find wearing a seatbelt painful. However, he added, most of the people he pulls over have no such excuse.

In addition to funding local law enforcement agencies, the Bureau of Highway Safety has also launched a campaign called ''Survive Your Drive,'' which will include radio and television messages highlighting the ''Click it or Ticket'' program that aims to encourage people to wear their seatbelts, and obey Maine's operating under the influence laws. The messages focus on the consequences of not following state laws on the roads.

The fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $70 for the first offense, and increases for each additional offense. The law requiring all adults to wear seatbelts was adopted by Governor John Baldacci in May, 2007. Thomas said since then he's seen many more people buckling up.

''When we first started doing details, it would be every third or fourth car. Now they're saying we're up to 80 percent compliance,'' he said.

People driving in Windham will likely see the officers out by the rotary and other busy intersections over the next few weeks. Thomas said they stand near the yield signs and look through windows to see if people are buckled up.

''We've been seeing a lot of people with their hand on their chest, like they're doing the pledge of allegiance, putting their seatbelts on as they go by. People wave, and thank us for what we're doing. I had one woman stop and tell me to put on a hat. It's cold,'' Thomas said.