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Traffic Enforcement Equals Crime Reduction

Written by Ed Sanow

When you perform routine traffic enforcement in areas of high crime, the crime rate drops. That is one of those statements that, at face value, seems totally obvious. It makes sense that crime at least displaces with the added presence of active patrol vehicles. Yet, the rate of crime also drops, not just the change in location.

Since those statements are either not obvious to, or challenged by, some police managers, the NHTSA and the BJA have teamed up to prove it. Yes, this is an unlikely partnership of government agencies, but they have come together under a new program called Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety, DDACTS (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/law-enforcement/traffic-safety/ddacts.htm).

At the core of the issue is prioritizing strained and limited police resources for the maximum effect. So often, traffic enforcement is the first area to be cut back as staff levels fall or as gasoline prices rise. After all, traffic enforcement is only about collecting revenue from speeding citations. And traffic enforcement doesn’t have anything to do with real crime. And the officers from the traffic division never talk with officers from the crime division. Everyone knows this.

Not so fast, says the BJA and NHTSA. And the IACP, the National Sheriffs Association, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the National District Attorney’s Association, and the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. And the early results from a half-dozen test sites in cities and counties across the U.S. The DDACTS program in Nashville, TN is being set up as a model for the nation.

One of the early results is a direct correlation between serious crime and traffic crashes. Those involved in criminal activity are five times more likely to be involved in a traffic crash (of any severity) than the general public.

This effort is, indeed, data driven. The data is gathered locally, the ownership remains with the local department, who also does the data analysis. But the concept is as simple as putting traffic crash pins and serious crime pins on the same map. Then deploy traffic officers to those hot spots. The result has been a reduction in violent crime, a decrease in traffic crashes and an overall increase in quality of life issues. All that is needed is a solid realization that “a death is a death” and five times as many people die on the roads as are murdered.

For many, this requires a change in mindset. Aggressive traffic enforcement is a win-win. It reduces crime and increases safety. As a result of a focused traffic enforcement effort, Oklahoma County, OK has already documented a 90% reduction in crashes and a 90% reduction in criminal activity. Traffic enforcement equals crime reduction.

Published in Law and Order, Mar 2009

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