The Estevan Police Service is hoping that an increased focus on the city’s ever increasing traffic volume will lead to safer roads.
It was announced in late June that the EPS has created a dedicated traffic unit which will focus on issues such as speeding and dangerous driving. Chief Del Block said as anyone who has recently driven in Estevan has likely noticed, the amount of traffic in the city has increased substantially, a fact which necessitated the increased focus.
“There were complaints coming in about traffic issues and speeding, just lack of rules of the road and also, too, there was a notable increase in car accidents,” Block said.
“We knew we were lacking in traffic enforcement and because of the workload here, we have become more of a reactive force than a proactive force just because of the demands that have been placed on us.”
Block said their initial intent was to create a two officer traffic team on a trial basis but were forced to change their plans and go with just one officer — Const. Jeff Fry — for now. Although Fry will respond to assistance calls from his fellow officers, Block said the focus is strictly on traffic matters.
Block said thus far, the experiment has been going very well.
“It’s a public safety issue. Some people think we are just out there generating money and that is not the goal of it. It’s for public safety and because of the public safety needs that is why we created it,” Block said.
“From what I have seen in the first two and a half weeks, I really think we have to look at a full time position if the traffic continues in the city the way it is. (Fry) is approaching in upwards of 80 tickets and that is one person out there doing it. So you know there is a lot more out there too.”
Aside from the volume of tickets issued, Block said he noticed a difference in driving habits in his ventures around the city.
“I think people are watching now a little more,” he said. “Most of his enforcement has been in the area of seatbelts, speeding — speeding is the biggest — tinted windows, the odd cellphone ticket. He’s had quite a few red light and stop sign tickets. It’s mostly the high risk offences that create accidents (they are focusing on.)
“It’s proving worthwhile having someone in that position and I think we will work towards keeping him there. We could have two people out there and I think you would have immense results and I think you would see people taking more care in their driving once they are out there and the message is out there.”
Block said the current plan calls for the trial to continue through until the end of 2012. Should they decide to go with a full-time traffic officer, he noted they are well positioned in terms of staff numbers to make it happen.
“We have been growing. Since I became chief, we have been allowed to increase the force by six members and we have another two recruits going into college on August 14. When they graduate from college on December 14, they will put our numbers to 25 counting myself.
“That will allow me some shifting flexibility. I’ll still be able to meet contractual issues with manpower on the shifts and yet have some bodies that I can be a little bit flexible with and put them where the needs are. It’s nice to have a little flexibility where you can place people where they are really needed — not that patrols aren’t needed, they are busy — but it is nice to have that flexibility if I have a traffic issue, or I have something else, I can put them to that."