Supt Lavallee responds to traffic enforcement article

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.

Yours truly,
Kenneth Lavallee
Superintendent of Police

3 Responses to Supt Lavallee responds to traffic enforcement article

  1. Michael Luciano says:

    I think it’s a bit naive to think that revenue raising doesn’t factor into enforcement of the traffic laws. The Lowell Connector is a perfect example. On the side heading toward downtown, police frequently hide at the end of the Connector just past the peak of the last little hill so you can’t see them. When drivers hit the top of it and see the cruiser, they instinctively jam on their brakes, even if they’re already going the speed limit. I’ve experienced this many times and nearly saw someone rear-ended because of it. If the LPD were more concerned with safety than simply bagging people on that road, they’d set up shop where drivers can see them from far away, thereby reducing drivers’ speeds for longer stretches.

  2. George DeLuca says:

    The Connector detail originated with the death of the pregnant mother (and the unborn child) via a terrible drag racing accident where one of the cars became airborn and landed on the woman’s car.

    It was a last straw for the City (enough is enough), guard rails were immediately put up, and a resolve to make the Connector safe for the public was initiated by the City. The details followed. I’ve never felt more safe driving on the Connector as now. Not only has speeding been curtailed, but tailgaiting has also declined greatly. Another death trap along Rt. 110 towards Dracut has also become much safer through similar vigilence involving officers and motorcycle cops.

    As one who has lived in other parts of the country, It’s clear to me that the Lowell Police are one of the bravest and finest forces in the nation. The connection with the community has also improved greatly under the leadership of Supt. Lavallee and City Manager Bernie Lynch; and, the force uses state-of-the-art technology to operate continuously more efficiently. Case in point is the new 911 control center.

    A good example of quota type gotcha traps would be the one that they used in Aurora Colorado in the 70s and 80s. A hidden squad car would immediately pull over anyone who rolled through a stop sign no matter how slowly. They called it a “California Stop”. The fine would be $100 you had to go wait an hour in line to pay the fine. What a waste of a police officers time. But the Town made a fortune. Public safety is the difference, and Lowell is on the right track with their vigilence.

  3. C R Krieger says:

    Out in California we called those Hollywood Stops and the Police in Long Beach sit at a corner, in plain sight, and watch to make sure your wheel stopped rotating at the four-way stop.  I think a little of that would be good for our fair city, in that folks roll the stop all the time.  If rolling the stop is OK, put in a Yield Sign.  And maybe adopt the German signage where there is an indication as to which is the major route and which is the minor route, so that folks know to yield to the major route.

    I am puzzled by 57 illegal firearms having been recovered, but 71 individuals having been arrested on felony firearms charges.  Is this a case of tagging two people in a car in which one illegal firearm was found?

    Regards  —  Cliff