Looking Beyond The Ticket: Traffic Law Enforcement
As the 21st century approaches, changing societal issues and priorities
present new challenges to the law enforcement community. Society demands
remedies to rising crime rates, drug use, and traffic fatalities/injuries,
and communities want increased police visibility. However, law enforcement
agencies, in most cases, are expected to do this with current or static
resources and budgets. As a result, law enforcement administrators are searching
for new ways to do business and for more efficient and effective uses of
existing resources. Proactive traffic enforcement (a standard tool from
this century) and "looking beyond the ticket" are effective tools
that can assist in meeting these challenges.
Law enforcement executives and officers, elected officials, highway safety
advocates, and civic leaders need to understand the relationship between
traffic enforcement, crime, and public safety. Proactive traffic enforcement
makes roadways safer, reduces crime and improves the quality of life in
What else is "looking beyond the ticket?" It is approaching
each traffic stop with objectivity and remaining alert for indicators of
criminal activity and officer safety warnings. The anecdotal examples in
this document show why proactive traffic enforcement and "looking beyond
the ticket" are a winning combination. Using these examples you can
explore why they work, how they work, the benefits, and the challenges.
More than 100 local, county, and state agencies across the country contributed
successful "looking beyond the ticket" cases for review, and officer
interviews for insight. Cumulatively, the officers interviewed had 949 years
of experience as "street officers," and their ideas about patrol
practices are vital.
Benefits of "Looking Beyond The Ticket" are:
- traffic law enforcement is universal to law enforcement; it is not
a new science or high-tech;
- traffic law enforcement is an effective tool to reduce criminal activity;
it provides a visible deterrent; and,
- patrol/traffic officers and deputy sheriffs are versatile and efficient
generalists; they enforce traffic laws and apprehend criminals.
1994-95 Traffic Enforcement Results
Traffic Tickets Issued Increased 16%
Officer Initiated Activity Increased 14%
Total Criminal Arrests Increased 34%
Traffic Crashes Decreased 12%
Citizen Generated Calls Decreased 7%
Part One Crime Index Decreased 6%
Proactive traffic enforcement and "looking beyond the ticket"
worked in Peoria, Illinois, with the following results:
Peoria is not an isolated example. It illustrates the benefits proactive
traffic enforcement and "looking beyond the ticket" can produce.
Peoria had the same challenges any agency may have to face to be successful.
There was a negative perception about traffic enforcement both in the community
and among the law enforcement officers. No doubt you have heard statements
like, "it was only a traffic ticket," or "he was sent back
to the traffic unit." These types of statements lessen the importance
of traffic enforcement and traffic citations and gives the appearance that
officers are punished by being assigned to the traffic unit. Peoria changed
these notions through education. Multi-agency cooperation overcame limited
resources. Data collection and analysis were accurate and used as a basis
to direct or redirect efforts and market successes.
Top of Page
"Looking beyond the ticket" begins before the traffic stop.
Believing in, understanding, and recognizing traffic efforts for their inherent
value are essential. There are three key elements that can help in being
- Changing the public's and law enforcement's perceptions about traffic
enforcement through education, to foster support for traffic enforcement
and "looking beyond the ticket" efforts.
- Using accurate statistics to identify traffic and criminal trends provides
an effective and strategic management tool. Accurate record keeping, data
collection and analysis, evaluation, and community participation are crucial.
- Evaluating impact and results are vital steps in marketing proactive
traffic enforcement and "looking beyond the ticket."
The following information provides a closer look at these challenges
and outlines the elements necessary for developing successful programs and
successful law enforcement officers.