Misinformation, from internal and external, about traffic enforcement was identified by traffic officers as a barrier to effective "looking beyond the ticket" efforts. Through education, perceptions about traffic law enforcement efforts can be changed.
Public educational needs (external) were discussed by law enforcement executives, (from all levels of law enforcement), traffic safety professionals, and educators. In September 1996, the group came together to discuss police traffic services in the 21st century. One of the most important issues identified by the participants was "continued public demand for the further diversion of law enforcement personnel from police traffic services to crime fighting activities." Participants believe one strategy to improve the public's low regard for police traffic services is to educate them on the need for traffic law enforcement and its role as a crime fighting tool.
It is also interesting to note that the majority of patrol officers interviewed for this report, identified education/training (internal) as the single tool most needed to help them "look beyond the ticket." Specifically, they wanted education to raise awareness of the benefits of proactive traffic law enforcement among patrol, command, and administrative officers.
Data Collection and Analysis
The use of current local data is essential to determining the traffic enforcement problem. Some agencies now look at their traffic problem areas and their high crime areas to determine how best to deploy personnel so that officers can have an impact on both problems. In order to address any problem in a community, information and data relating to the problem must be collected and analyzed to identify possible solutions. While crash data are collected and analyzed at the state level, local data collection and analysis is needed too. If local data are not sufficient, determine basic data needed and begin to collect it immediately. When looking at crashes and their contributing factors, also map out your criminal data. Is there some way officers can be deployed to effect both problems? Many local law enforcement agencies do not have the luxury of a separate traffic unit. Collection and use of this data allow law enforcement agencies to use their resources in an efficient manner by clearly identifying where and how law enforcement efforts should be directed. This may seem like an obvious statement and simple task. However, inadequate computer resources in some agencies and communities can limit the collection and analysis of available data.
Developing community partnerships may be one solution to resolving inadequate computer resources. By partnering with other community agencies and sharing the cost of upgrading computer resources, an individual partner does not have to be financially over-burdened. All of the partners can share in the benefit of having accessible, meaningful data to identify problems, direct efforts, and measure outcome.
If the community is aware of this critical need, groups will often try to help solve the problem. Citizens may want to volunteer to help key in data as reserve personnel to augment sworn personnel. Let your problem become known.
Maintaining a data base of current crime and motor vehicle crash information allows for easy access to the data. These statistics also can be used to give a "tailored" picture of local problem areas. This type of information has also proven to be effective in articulating and supporting enforcement efforts and successes.
Measuring the Outcome and Results
Taking the next step, measuring outcome and results, is essential in determining the effect law enforcement efforts have on the problems identified. Traditionally, law enforcement has measured its effectiveness by the productivity of the individual officer (how many tickets were written?). This may be an appropriate measure of officer initiative, but it may fail to show accomplishment of a goal. Law enforcement agencies must "look beyond the ticket" to see if the desired result has been obtained. For example, did crashes decrease? Did the severity of crashes decrease? Were injuries reduced? Did criminal activity decrease? What was the economic benefit?
"Looking beyond" the expected goal to find other results is beneficial. For example, if a proactive traffic enforcement effort is conducted in a high crash area, what effect did the effort have on crime in the same area? Did calls for service increase or decrease in the area? The same is true if the emphasis is on crime in a particular area. What effects were there on traffic concerns?
Marketing Police Traffic Services
"Looking beyond the ticket" is a way to market the versatility of the patrol/traffic officer and the benefits of police traffic services. Traffic enforcement not only addresses traffic problems, but criminal and community issues as well. Law enforcement officers who have an impact on a variety of issues simultaneously are efficient and valuable.
Successful marketing includes involving the community in the identification of problems, clearly articulating law enforcement goals, and demonstrating solutions with follow-up and supporting data.
Who should do the marketing? Every law enforcement officer, especially community policing officers and public relations officers, must take an active role to ensure that everyone understands the aspects of their duties and responsibilities, and how they go beyond the obvious. For example:
Clear communication within a law enforcement agency will ensure each officer knows what is happening in the communities they serve. Every law enforcement officer should know what problems have been identified, what is being done to address them, and how successful they have been.
Another marketing strategy is to involve law enforcement in coalitions with other community partners. Working with other law enforcement agencies, medical providers, the insurance industry, highway safety advocates, and community groups to solve mutual problems, may give each partner a different perspective of the other. Through mutual understanding, each partner can become an advocate for the other.