By NATHAN GREGORY
Since Starkville police officers Andy Round and Taylor Wells began manning the city police department’s traffic enforcement unit on June 1 shortly after they received two motorcycles, they’ve written more than 1,000 tickets combined.
Most of the time they’ve spent since the new vehicles became part of their fleet has been on major traffic arteries — namely Miss. Highway 12. In a response to what SPD Chief David Lindley says is more than a dozen calls to the department from areas all over the city regarding the need for increased neighborhood enforcement, the two will soon be spending more time in residential areas.
“What we want to do is move from primary enforcement areas which have been mostly major traffic arteries to some secondary requests for enforcement which have been coming in on a regular basis and they primarily involve major streets and subdivisions,” Lindley said. “That is not traditionally where we expend a lot of enforcement efforts … so we want to be able to warn people that we’re going to be stepping up activities as far as radar, stop signs and seat belts in the residential areas.”
Round and Wells said since the implementation of the motor unit, they have seen a decrease in collisions on major thoroughfares and hope stepping up their presence in subdivisions will bring the same results.
“On the days we concentrate primarily on Highway 12, we have seen through patrol efforts the number of wreck reports we’re taking whenever (Round) and I are both heavily active on Highway 12 (have decreased),” Wells said. “We’ve had days where we didn’t have a collision at all in a 12-to-16-hour period on Highway 12 and that’s with (Mississippi State University) students in town.”
“The reason we’re out here doing the traffic enforcement is to cut down on the number of traffic collisions … and keeping people safe. The whole thing is all about safety,” Round said. “You cut down on the number of collisions, you’re actually saving people money. Your insurance, my insurance, everybody else’s insurance will start to go down if we cut out a lot of these collisions.”
Round and Wells said they conducted a survey on two streets of a subdivision Tuesday morning and counted 16 violations during a 27-minute time frame varying from running stop signs to speeding.
“We actually had a resident and stop to talk to me this morning while we were sitting there specifically telling us what time we needed to sit there and how bad the problem would be,” Round said.
Lindley said he believes increased presence in residential areas can also cut down on violent crimes.
“Visible traffic enforcement is a great deterrent to all manners of crimes. In some of the larger cities that have high volumes of violent crime, one of the ways they combat that is to go in and start aggressive and active traffic enforcement because the more police activity you see … the more of an effect that has,” he said. “We’ve not only seen a decrease in traffic accidents, but we’re starting to see a decrease in overall crime. We’re looking forward to moving into the subdivisions because we have had some problems there over the summer (such as) larcenies out of cars.”
The two have also arrested a combined 16 people for driving under the influence during the daytime since June 1 — mostly before noon.
“It’s not the norm,” Round said, “but since we’ve been out looking for them doing heavy traffic enforcement, we’re seeing a lot more impaired drivers than we used to in the morning.”
“The fact that they’ve made a number of these arrests in the morning … is two things — telling and alarming,” Lindley added. “That just shows that impaired drivers are out there 24 hours a day. We’re glad in particular to get those drivers because those tend to be the ones who are the most problematic and repeat offenders because they stay intoxicated a majority of the time.”
Round said he and Wells welcome input from residents who have suggestions for areas that need supervision.
“When we go into these areas we still solicit information or any needs the public has. If there’s something we want everybody to let us know,” Round said. “We’re not the bad guys on motorcycles that most people think we are. Talk to us. We’re here to help everybody.”
Lindley said he plans to implement the stepped-up subdivision enforcement in the next week all over the city while still maintaining a presence in high-traffic areas.
“It’s prioritization. You just have to try and be equitable about your sharing of time in regard to different areas of enforcement. We don’t want to become primarily a highway unit. We want to become a police unit which encompasses all of the city,” Lindley said. “I think people are aware that we have a motor traffic enforcement unit now and they’re looking forward to us putting our attention into those problem areas that affect their quality of life … and since we have that capability we’re going to try to provide that service.
“We’ll try and do some warnings and use radar trailers to let people know we’re starting to focus on that type of area and then we’ll start enforcing in the next week or so,” he added. “There’s no subdivision that will be excluded.”