A few days ago the local newspaper published an article which framed the stepped-up traffic enforcement by the Lowell Police as a revenue raising measure. On the police department’s blog, Superintendent Ken Lavallee responds to the revenue raising implications by documenting the public safety and law enforcement rationale for the current traffic enforcement strategy. I’ve reposted his full response below:
Dear Editor: After reading the article entitled “Citation revenue doubles in three years” in the August 1, 2010 edition of The Sun, one might assume that the foremost purpose of the Lowell Police Department’s traffic enforcement initiative is revenue enhancement. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The piece correctly pointed out that traffic enforcement became a higher priority on the heels of several high-profile driver fatalities in the city of Lowell. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, traffic death statistics are astonishing. It is reported that during any three-day period of any year, between 300 and 400 people will die in traffic crashes somewhere in the United States. Every three days, more than 19,000 people are injured in the nearly 16,000 reportable crashes. Some victims will be disabled for life, while others will suffer unimaginable pain. Traffic crashes are the major cause of death of persons between the ages of 3 and 34.
Lowell is no exception to these horrible statistics. In 2004 and 2005, 14 people died in traffic crashes in Lowell. Additionally, 3,793 and 3,871 crashes occurred, respectively. In 2006, the Lowell Police Department began to boost its traffic enforcement efforts. The results are positive. From 2006 to 2009, 11 people lost their lives in crashes, an average of less than three per year, or a 63% reduction. Since our enhanced traffic safety initiative has been underway, we have realized an 11% reduction in crashes. There have been 1,554 reportable crashes in the first six months of 2010, putting us on pace for 3,108 accidents, well below the average for the past four years.
Besides saving lives and preventing crashes, increased traffic enforcement prevents more serious crime. As a result of motor vehicle stops, since 2006:
- 57 illegal firearms have been recovered
- 71 individuals have been arrested on felony firearms charges
- 1,173 outstanding arrest warrants have been cleared
- 523 individuals have been arrested for drug charges
In addition the Lowell Police Department works collaboratively with the Massachusetts State Police to conduct “sobriety checkpoints.” The collaboration has resulted in 224 drunken driving arrests since 2007.
Recently, the Lowell Police Department conducted a survey of the city’s residents. In 9 of the 11 neighborhoods, traffic issues received the highest rating as a perceived neighborhood problem. And citywide, 52.3% of the residents “strongly agree” that the Lowell Police Department enforces traffic laws well and 28.4% “somewhat agree” that we enforce traffic laws well.
The only strategy that has been consistently proven to reduce deaths, injuries, and property damage due to crashes is proactive, consistent enforcement of the traffic laws. Traffic enforcement is not an annoyance – it is a necessity and a life saving tool. The Lowell Police Department is committed to the belief that the public supports traffic enforcement that is fairly applied, consistent, data-driven, and not seen as a way to produce revenue.
Superintendent of Police