Watch out speeders, drinkers and red-light runners.
The Payson Police Department recently received money to buy a new patrol vehicle strictly for traffic enforcement and now has a handful of new cops to man it.
It’s been years since the department had an officer dedicated to writing speeding and drunk driving tickets. After officer Alan Dyer retired, the agency didn’t have the money or manpower to replace him, said Police Chief Don Engler.
As a result, the number of traffic tickets dropped as well as the number of DUI arrests.
Since 2008, DUI arrests have plummeted 52 percent. Engler attributes that to fewer officers on the street, with the remaining officers strapped for time.
“Our officers have been so back to back (on calls) that they really haven’t had anytime to go out and look for violations and patrol for DUI,” he said.
However, accidents have also declined steadily during that period despite the decrease in officers on traffic patrol. In 2007, Payson police handled 530 traffic accidents. In 2012 they handled 343. In fact, during the time the department has coped with vacant positions, the major crime rate has also declined steadily.
The department has been short a handful of officers for some time and just this year filled those spots after a creative marketing campaign brought in more applicants.
Most of the new officers are still in training, but will soon take turns on traffic duty.
Previously, one officer, like Dyer, handled the traffic beat. Now, officers will hold it three to six months before rotating.
While on the traffic beat, officers will use a new patrol vehicle the department is buying with a $35,000 grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
“This vehicle will be used solely by a traffic enforcement officer and will focus on aggressive drivers, impaired drivers, occupant protection, speeding and other highway safety laws,” according to a press release from the department.
Part of the grant stipulation is that the vehicle cannot be used for answering other types of calls.
Besides looking for impaired drivers and speeders, the traffic cop will handle all neighborhood traffic complaints and do most of the accident reports.
Besides a new vehicle, the PPD also got $6,000 from the governor’s office to cover overtime wages so officers can do DUI patrols and other special traffic enforcement duties.
Part of the money will allow the department to have extra officers out on holiday and event weekend when DUIs are traditionally higher.
“These grant funds are part of an ongoing effort to make local roads and highways safer through a combination of traffic enforcement, a zero tolerance approach, and public education regarding the dangers of driving under the influence, speeding, seat belt violations, child restraint violations, and other traffic related issues,” according to the department. “Our department has enjoyed a lengthy, positive relationship with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and has been awarded many grants that have been beneficial to the Payson area.”
For more information about this grant or highway safety in general, contact Chief Engler at (928) 474-5242, ext. 209.