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Traffic crashes decline in Cape Coral

By Staff | Aug 13, 2011

The Cape Coral police are attributing a drop in traffic crashes and traffic citations to an increased police presence in accident-prone areas.

There were 2,142 crashes last year from January to July. During the same period this year, there were 1,947 crashes recorded – a 9 percent drop.

In 2010, there were 14,057 citations issued during the first seven months. This year, there were 9,204 citations written – a 35 percent decrease.

“The drop in the number of tickets being issued is due in large part to the department’s philosophy of focusing enforcement efforts in the areas that have proven more dangerous in terms of traffic crashes,” police spokesman Lt. Tony Sizemore said.

He explained that the department has focused its efforts on “traffic crash hot spots” for years, and that those areas can change on a regular basis.

“This was the first time it jumped out of the page for me when I was looking at the data,” Sizemore said.

He explained that when some drivers become aware that there is a large police presence in an area, they shift from an aggressive driving style to a more defensive style. Tickets are intended to influence drivers’ behavior.

“It’s that behavior change, that behavior shift,” Sizemore said. “When crashes decrease, citations should also decrease. That is happening.”

Police Chief Jay Murphy called it “outcome versus output.”

“What we have been doing is focusing our enforcement efforts to the traffic crash hot spots,” he said. “That strategy does not increase the number of citations, but it should decrease the number of crashes. The numbers show that.”

Sizemore noted that the Patrol Bureau has been short staffed due to military deployments and injuries, which required about 10 officers to be reassigned for a few months from traffic enforcement to street patrol.

Traffic enforcement is a full-time unit that focuses on speciality areas, including DUIs, crash investigations, aggressive driving and more. The unit enables the department to be more proactive on certain issues, he said.

“It’s a quality of life and quality of police service that people have come to accept,” Sizemore said. “Those things suffer when numbers are low.”

“Minimum staffing is not optimum staffing,” he said.