By mid-May, Lakeville Police Chief Jeff Long found that traffic stops were up nearly double from the same period last year. Citations were way up. So he took to social media to ask for residents’ opinions.
What followed wasn’t the usual online firestorm of complaints or cheap quips. Instead, the more than 70 comments on the department’s May 19 Facebook post allowed Long and his officers to identify the city’s biggest traffic problem areas and create a spreadsheet to document priorities.
“It isn’t just the cops hiding around a tree trying to catch people speeding,” Long said. “We’re actually going to the spots our residents are telling us they want us at.”
Ipava Avenue speeders were a common complaint. With its four lanes and 45 miles per hour speed limit, Long said drivers may feel as if they are on a freeway. Other posts concerned reckless drivers and people flying through neighborhoods near schools.
One woman commented that though her family lives ¾ of a mile from Christina Huddleston Elementary, she loads her children into the car each day because it’s not safe to walk. Another resident, an avid runner, complained of drivers frequently failing to yield to pedestrians.
“With all the publicity regarding alternate means of transportation, you would think people would yield to peds!” Long replied.
Through May, Lakeville police initiated 6,973 traffic stops, up from 3,895 during the same period last year. Speeding tickets are up 225 percent, from 343 to 1,115. Other citations increased from 1,224 in the first five months of 2014 to 2,306 so far this year.
Long said more traffic stops are resulting in arrests for other offenses, too. Police in Lakeville made 85 arrests during traffic stops, up from 64 in the same period a year ago. At the end of May, Long tweeted that four traffic stops one evening ended in the recovery of a stolen car, a drug arrest and two DUIs. “These people share the road with you,” he posted.
Long continues to document the department’s traffic enforcement efforts on social media.
Last week he shared how officers cited 17 people in three hours for failing to buckle up. Almost daily, he tweets about which areas are receiving attention from officers and updates on speeders being clocked. The closer look caused Long to notice that many drivers aren’t just going a few mph above the limit, but often as high as 15 to 17 mph over.
“My goal would be just to get people to slow down,” Long said.
If they don’t, expect to read about it online in 140 characters or less.