NEWS

Slow down

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 6/3/21

By JOHN HOWELL Warwick residents are asking police to nab speeders and improve compliance with traffic regulations in their neighborhoods, and police are responding. Mayor Frank Picozzi remarked on what he termed a stepped-up effort to slow down

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NEWS

Slow down

Posted

Warwick residents are asking police to nab speeders and improve compliance with traffic regulations in their neighborhoods, and police are responding.

Mayor Frank Picozzi remarked on what he termed a stepped-up effort to slow down neighborhood traffic on Tuesday. Picozzi, like Community Services Capt. Joel Thomas, has seen Facebook posts asking police to visit their neighborhoods.

“Try between Whitfield & Martin’s 2nd stop sign. Folks are always going thru w/o stopping there are people walking around that area with dogs going to Mickey Stevens Arena,” Bill Hooper posted Wednesday on the department Facebook page.

In another post, Kristen Beauregard writes, “We’d love it if you patrolled more down Clifton Ave by Harbor Lights!! So much traffic in the summer going to the country club and people fly by my house, lots of kiddos in the neighborhood.”

Renee Valliere Briggs also cites children in calling out the conditions she’s seeing in Pontiac.

“Greenwich Ave in Pontiac is awful. People use it as a cut thru to avoid lights and fly. Several kids, along with my own on this street riding bikes or walking to the park or library. Also on King St. most barely stop at 4 way stop of King and Central,” she writes.

Early Wednesday, police were on Tidewater Drive clocking vehicles and pulling over those exceeding the speed limit. Citations were issued to excessive speeders or those with a record of habitual violations. Warnings were issued to others.

Later in the morning, the unit was stationed on Cowesett Road near the intersection with Hardig Road.

There was no attempt to conceal their presence. These weren’t speed traps. A speed sled clearly reflecting the speed was positioned on one side of Cowesett Road. On the opposite side, Officer Jake Elderkin focused a Lidar, a hand-held device no larger than a pair of binoculars, on vehicles in the westbound lane. The Lidar enabled Elderkin to target specific vehicles, which is not the case of radar.

In less than 10 minutes, he had pulled over two vehicles for exceeding the 25 mph limit. Both were traveling at more than 35 mph but not as high as 45 mph.

Elderkin pulled the vehicles over, obtained licences and registrations and ran the data through his computer. Every stop is recorded, regardless of whether a citation is issued or not.

“Our goal is not to write tickets, but to favorably alter habits,” Thomas said. He pointed out that with the warmer weather, relaxation of pandemic precautions, and reopening of businesses and events, more people are on the roads and the level of traffic has increased. He is hopeful the presence and enforcement will increase adherence of regulations.

The department’s efforts are being recognized around the world. Thomas said he’s received Facebook comments from as far away as Australia. A post from a man in West Virginia especially resonated with him. Reviewing what the department is doing, he wrote that the program comes down to selective enforcement, education and voluntary compliance.

“That’s just it,” Thomas said.

The police have a number of aids to monitor vehicular activity apart from Lidar and radar. The speed sleds with digital displays compile a plethora of data, including the number of vehicles passing them, the number of those exceeding the speed limit, the time of day and the average speed.

Unlike the sleds, which are clearly visible to motorists, the department has acquired in the last month a “covert” device that does the same thing. Thomas said he expect that will give a “true” reading of what is happening, as the sleds remind motorists to check their speed and many slow down.

Asked if there is a neighborhood or stretch of road renowned for speeding, Thomas replied, “It seems like it is everywhere.”

Thomas said the department is looking to remind motorists to stop when pedestrians are in a crosswalk and to come to a complete stop at stop signs. He urged motorists to also be on the watch for joggers, walkers and bicyclists who have all taken to the road with the warmer weather and reopening.

The numbers reflect the increase in activity.

Thomas said that between Jan. 1 and May 11 this year, the traffic division made 4,564 stops and issued 1,001 violations as compared to 3,795 stops and 1,074 violations for the same period last year. As a basis of comparison, for the same period, 4,769 stops and 1,526 violations were recorded in 2018 and 6,392 stops and 2,171 violations in 2019.

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