Here at the Police Department, and throughout all of the departments in the City of Grand Junction, we frequently field questions from the public regarding a whole host of issues. To help let you know what is going on in your local government, the City of Grand Junction regularly prints articles titled “We’re Glad You Asked” in the Daily Sentinel and posts those same articles on the City’s website.
The most recent “We’re Glad You Asked” article answers questions from the public regarding traffic enforcement. Here’s how we answered those questions:
Why do City police officers spend time on traffic enforcement? Don’t they have better things to do?
For all of the great proactive and community-oriented policing programs that we conduct, the fact remains that the fundamental duty of a police department is to enforce the law. That contrasts sharply with a fundamental trait of all of us as human beings…none of us appreciates being told what we can and can’t do and none of us wants to suffer the equivalent of a ‘scolding’ from the very government that we support with our tax dollars.
Therein lies the crux of the frustration, and perhaps the conflicted opinions, that many of us feel about the topic of Traffic Enforcement. When someone speeds by us in what we consider to be an irresponsible and dangerous manner, we wish there was a police officer nearby to enforce the law. When we have just received a traffic ticket however, it is not uncommon to think that the police were petty in their enforcement, or to wonder why they “don’t have something better to do.”
We are often asked why we do traffic enforcement, and the simple answer is that it works. Our streets are safer and lives are protected when we conduct such enforcement. Traffic Enforcement has increased in 2010, and during that same time period traffic accidents are down over 11%, with injury accidents down nearly 17%.
Despite a common misperception, traffic enforcement activities are not conducted to increase tax revenue. Obviously traffic enforcement does generate some revenue for the City, in fact nearly $750,000 each year. Although that may sound like a large number, it represents less than one percent of the City’s general fund revenues.
We base our traffic enforcement efforts on two main factors. First, we respond to complaints from citizens regarding areas of the city that they feel are in need of additional attention. We get many complaints, for example, of speeding through school zones or ‘running’ red turn arrows at various spots in the city. When we receive such complaints, we conduct enforcement activity not only to assess for ourselves the extent of the problem, but also to have a visible presence that we know through experience has the effect of improving compliance in those areas.
Second, we regularly analyze the streets and intersections that generate the most traffic accidents, and therefore present the most danger to our citizens. We ‘dig down’ to determine what violations most frequently resulted in those accidents, and then pattern our enforcement efforts to address those violations.
None of us likes the experience of seeing red and blue lights in our rearview mirror, especially when followed by the sinking realization that a summons is about to be issued. We immediately worry about the cost of the ticket, what our family is going to think, or what the inevitable effect is going to be on our insurance rates. Unfortunately though, traffic enforcement is about the only tool available to us that has a deterrent effect on future unlawful driving behavior, and it clearly has an impact on reducing accidents and injuries in our community.