Speeders beware

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Earlier this month the Andalusia Police Department began a traffic enforcement campaign in hopes of addressing complaints about speeding and other violations.

The program is part of a nationwide campaign to step up traffic enforcement and it was made possible through state funds which allows the department to work in overtime hours for some of its officers.

Certain officers, during the campaign, have been strictly watching for traffic violations and not responding to other calls, unless in case of an emergency.

"We have our normal patrol officers out, so we are not decreasing our regular patrol to (work on the campaign)," said Police Chief Wilbur Wllliams, Jr. "This is all overtime or people who are off-duty on other shifts, and on their off-days they come in and we will work the traffic details and strictly enforcing traffic laws."

Williams said the concentration of the detail work has been addressing areas where there has been many citizen complaints of violations, such as Lindsey Bridge Road and Highway 29 North.

"If we have identified areas where we have a stop sign or a street light, or a traffic policy that is not being conformed to, then we will pay special attention to that," said Williams. "(The program) gives us the opportunity to address specific problems. These are not problems we are dreaming up, but the program was designed to address specific complaints, just like the Click it or Ticket campaign was designed to address seat belts."

He said the program will continue until the department's allocation from the state runs out and said while the program continues, he is trying to make the most effective use of those officers involved.

"We are trying to work the (program) in blocks of four, and eight hours at the time, to justify (patrol officers) using their off days to work," said Williams.

Williams said he is pleased with how the campaign has gone thus far.

"So far it seems to be going very well," said Williams. "Our officers have been anxious to get into it and certainly anxious to get that overtime, because every little bit helps. We are hoping and looking for good things from it. We would love to go out there for eight hours and work and not have to write a single ticket, but we know that is not going to happen."

Williams said he has noticed an increase in tickets issued since the program began, but not an overly large increase.

"We don't set quotas (as far as tickets issued) and we don't operate under a quota system, so we are just encouraging (the officers) to know what their duties are and what their expectations are," said Williams. "We have seen mostly speeding, seat belt and insurance (violations)."

He said he wants to emphasize that this campaign is not being conducted to act as a "speed trap," but instead to save lives and promote traffic compliance.

"Different agencies and departments take different allowances that they take into consideration to minimize any improper reading of radar," said Williams. "We check (radar guns) each time to verify that they're calibrated. We are just asking people to just abide by the laws as opposed to us getting out there and having to write tickets."

He said the reaction from the campaign has been extremely positive for the most part.

"The publicity and exposure (about the campaign) has been very positive as far as getting the message out," said Williams. "I have had a number of people comment that because of the publicity of the campaign they are watching the speed limit more, and that is what we are looking for. Regardless of how we accomplish it, if we publish it and they slow down, then we have accomplished a goal. If we publish it, and they don't slow down and we have to write a ticket, then hopefully we've accomplished a goal. It has been recognized and people are aware of it."

Saving lives, said Williams, is of course the ultimate main objective of the campaign.

"If one person is saved from a wreck or the traumatic effects of a wreck, then we have accomplished what we are trying to do," said Williams. "If there are funds available, I fully expect us to do another Click It or Ticket campaign somewhere around the holiday season, and it we have time, we may get Sergeant (Charles) Bailey to do our seat belt campaign again"

He said neighboring law agencies such as the Red Level and River Falls police departments have worked well together in trying to promote traffic safety and compliance.

"Some of the smaller agencies have tended to band together to have a larger presence," said Williams. "The departments of River Falls and Red Level and the Sheriff's Department get together and do a larger thing, while with us, we have a little more personnel to work with. We can put out a group or squad and do the job while the smaller department have to depend on cooperation between each other.

"We have made it well known that we are available (to assist smaller departments) and anything we can do toward accomplishing the goal (of proper traffic activity) then that is what we will do."