With an infusion of $170,000 of federal funds, Killeen Police Department will be actively seeking to write more tickets in 2013.
The department has activated the overtime program funded largely from the federal Selected Traffic Enforcement Program grant it received this year.
The city chipped in $34,600, bringing the total amount of funds for the program to a little more than $200,000.
Sgt. Sam Ellis said the program will pay officers for voluntary overtime shifts dedicated to traffic enforcement. The top priorities will be speeders and intoxicated drivers.
KPD began increased enforcement earlier this month, though the department received the grant money in October. The sheer size of the grant led to a delay in its implementation while KPD administrators worked out a plan to increase enforcement, Ellis said.
The sergeant had been told to “go big” when applying for the grant, but was caught off guard when the Texas Department of Transportation awarded him the entire amount requested, Ellis said.
It is the largest STEP grant award the department has received in several years.
Officers are targeting six problems zones where compliance with speed laws is minimal. Police crack down on drunk drivers citywide.
At those sites, which includes the entire stretch of U.S. Highway 190 within city limits, Ellis found that less than one-quarter of drivers obey the speed limit, he said.
To increase compliance, officers are aiming to write more than twice as many speeding citations as they did in 2011. The department wrote 7,227 speeding tickets in that year.
Using 4,000 hours of dedicated traffic details, the department hopes to write more than 15,000 tickets from now until the fiscal year ends in September.
That can lead to up to six extra shifts a day solely for traffic enforcement, and sometimes six at a time.
“They keep the dispatchers busy,” Lt. Mike Aycock said.
The program also aims to increase DWI arrests by about 70 percent.
“The intent is to reduce the number of crashes,” Ellis said. “When you bring down the total number of accidents, you bring down the total number of deaths.”
Speeding increases the likelihood of being involved in a crash along with the severity of injuries. The rough guideline is that for every 10 mph a driver travels, the odds of being in a fatal crash doubles, while chances of being injured in a crash quadruples, Ellis said.
The stated goals are not required, and officers assigned to traffic details will not be trying to hit any sort of quota. And while they expect the program to result in more citations, just having more officers on the road will make driving in Killeen safer, Ellis said.
“Any time there’s a patrol car in the area, people are going to slow down,” he said.