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The original item was published from 1/31/2020 5:02:38 PM to 2/10/2020 8:28:53 PM.

News Flash

Safety Strategies

Posted on: January 31, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Traffic Enforcement and Safe Communities

Police Officer with Radar Gun

The caller to the police department that morning was upset that an officer had stopped him for a traffic violation earlier that day.  He asked why officers weren’t out arresting “armed robbers or something” instead of spending their time on meaningless violations such as this.  He was told that an armed robber had been arrested that morning, and apparently this officer was now focusing on traffic enforcement.  This wasn’t a snarky response from a public servant; detectives had actually worked through the night on a robbery from the day before and finally tracked the suspect down in the wee hours of the morning.  The conversation ended amicably enough, but it demonstrated a common perspective that public safety is achieved exclusively through the reduction of crime.     

When the safety of a community is measured, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered.  Menomonee Falls was recognized in 2019 by two organizations that monitor safe cities in Wisconsin.  Safewise rated the Village as the 20th safest city in the state and ranked us 10th (safewise).  The methodology of the organizations involved variations of FBI crime figures, population, the number of officers employed by the police department and a public survey.  But the Village’s low crime rate is of little solace to someone whose car was totaled or who was injured in a car crash, or the family of a person killed in a traffic incident.  Such tragedies most often have no connection to crime.  

Traffic safety is as much an element of a safe community as the crime rate, but the larger picture can sometimes be lost in anecdotal evidence of encounters with traffic cops.  Most people have very few if any interactions with law enforcement, so being pulled over can be considered an affront or over-stepping of an officer’s authority.  The MFPD recognizes the need to address all factors in public safety, personal safety education, crime deterrence, criminal law enforcement, and traffic enforcement.  With regards to the latter, here are a few points that may change perspective:

The truths:

  • Enforcement is meant to encourage a predictable flow of traffic so as to enhance safety.  
  • Education and voluntary compliance is the goal.
  • Some violators learn from a warning or merely a conversation with an officer.
  • Some violators learn best from receiving a citation.
  • Increased traffic enforcement means greater police visibility and deterrence to crime – sometimes traffic enforcement is a means to an end.

The myths:

  • Officers operate on quotas – they don’t, in fact, state law restricts the use of them.
  • Traffic enforcement is a revenue generator for the Village – what is does produce is extremely small.
  • Every traffic stop results in a citation – very likely for unsafe driving, but officers have a number of options to promote education and safer operation in the future.

Stay safe and be well.

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