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CANADA - Curious trend develops on city streets Enforcement down, as are traffic deaths



File photo of police traffic enforcement

OFF THE WIRE
Jen Skerritt
 winnipegfreepress.com

Observers might expect a traffic equation like this: Less traffic enforcement leads to more road deaths.
But the reverse has happened.

A comparison

Fewer traffic scofflaws busted over summer:
June 2010:
4,230
June 2011:
2,859

July 2010:
3,836
July 2011:
3,127

August 2010:
4,135
August 2011:
3,287
--Winnipeg Police Service
Police say Winnipeg has seen fewer traffic fatalities this year despite a 20 per cent drop in traffic enforcement.
The drop in road enforcement is because police have used more resources to target biker gang wars.
Earlier this week, Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill told city council's finance committee that officers from the street-crime and community-support units -- who routinely issue tickets for speeding and traffic violations -- were told to make the feud between the Rock Machine and the Hells Angels their No. 1 priority when tensions flared this past summer.
Winnipeg police traffic unit Sgt. Mark Hodgson said traffic enforcement officers helped backfill the street crime and community-support units who usually police the 130 parades, protests and street festivals that are held citywide every year. The bulk of these events are held during the summer months, Hodgson said, and occurred during the same time more resources were directed toward the biker conflict.
As a result, Winnipeg Police Service data show officers issued 20 per cent fewer traffic tickets between May and August 2011 than the previous year. The drop comes the same year Winnipeg Police Service dedicated two additional officers to traffic enforcement and projected the force would issue 70,000 traffic tickets.
As of last week, Hodgson said police have issued 53,000 tickets, which includes everything from speeding, disobeying traffic devices and using a cellphone behind the wheel.
Safety experts say the key to changing driver behaviour and reducing collisions is convincing motorists they can be caught through consistent enforcement.
Hodgson said it does not appear the shift in resources had an impact on Winnipeg's road safety. To date, 11 people have died in collisions on city streets this year, down from 22 deaths in 2010.
Nonetheless, Hodgson said the police service recently increased the number of overtime days officers can voluntarily work traffic duty. He said that, normally, consistent traffic enforcement helps reduce the number of collisions on city streets.
"The more enforcement you do, the less collisions you have," Hodgson said.
The shift in resources away from traffic enforcement is part of the reason the police department expects to see a $1.4-million shortfall in traffic-ticket revenue this year. The city's total traffic-enforcement revenue is expected to be short $4.2 million by the end of the year due to a reduction in red-light camera tickets and reduced resources for traffic-ticket enforcement.
Hodgson said traffic enforcement officers were able to help to backfill other units focused on violent crime since they do not have to be called away to incoming 911 calls such as general patrol officers, for example.
Despite the drop, Hodgson said the police service expects to issue about 63,000 traffic tickets this year, up from 58,500 in 2010.
jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

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