Killeen drivers who ignore posted speed limits were more likely to see flashing lights in their rearview mirrors this year than in 2012.
The Killeen Police Department more than doubled the number of speeding citations issued in 2013 from the previous year.
Data provided by KPD showed 18,525 speeding tickets were issued between January and October this year. That’s 11,247 more than the same time period in 2012.
The department credits the spike in citations to federal grant money, which allows more officers to spend more time on the streets, particularly during holidays.
“Our department receives grants from the Texas Department of Transportation annually, which allows our department to have extra patrols out during holidays,” Carroll Smith, a spokeswoman for the department,wrote in a statement to the Herald.
In October 2012, the department received $170,000 in federal funds from TxDOT’s Selective Traffic Enforcement Program. The city added $34,600.
The funds were used to create a program that pays officers for voluntary overtime shifts dedicated to traffic enforcement, with a special aim at speeders and intoxicated drivers. At the time KPD received the grant, officials said they wanted to use 4,000 hours of dedicated traffic details.
KPD targeted several “problems zones” this year where compliance with speed laws is minimal.
Those included Veterans Memorial Boulevard from west city limits to W.S. Young Drive, Clear Creek Road (State Highway 201), Trimmier Road, U.S. Highway 190 and Central Texas Expressway and others.
‘We’ve been busy’
This year’s uptick in citations, in-part due the STEP grant, was readily apparent to city Judge Bill Gibson.
Gibson said he and his staff at the Killeen Municipal Court saw an increase in their workload as police stepped up speed enforcement efforts early this year.
“We saw a tremendous increase in the number of citations that went through this court,” Gibson said. “We’ve been busy.”
The increase in violations prompted the city to open a new payment window at the municipal court. Gibson said he requested an additional clerk to help with the increase, which was granted.
Despite the extra workload for the municipal court, Gibson said he approved of the STEP grant, noting the goal was ultimately to create a safer city.
“It’s designed for safety purposes, so it’s been worthwhile,” Gibson said.
Standing outside the municipal court in downtown last week, Killeen resident Lakeisha Brown said she noticed more police handing out tickets in Killeen this year. Brown was at the court to pay three tickets she received after she was pulled over near South Fort Hood Street.
Speeding fines in Killeen can range from $152 to $327, according to the municipal court’s website.
“It’s hard to come up with that money,” Brown said.
Brown acknowledged that increased enforcement, especially of speeding violators, might encourage safer city roads. “I think it will make more people slow down.”
Follow the money
Along with the increase in citations comes an increase in revenue. The year-to-date total for speeding citation revenue for 2013 is just over $3.3 million, according the city, doubling the $1.6 million collected in 2012.
City spokeswoman Hilary Shine said not all that money goes to the city. Approximately $81 of each ticket goes to the state, with the remaining money divided between multiple city funds.
Killeen residents likely will continue to see increased traffic enforcement next year. Ken Roberts, a spokesman for TxDOT, said the department was approved for a $81,600 STEP grant, which will be used to conduct selective traffic enforcement activities through September 2014. The Killeen City Council approved an additional $51,043, bringing the total to $132,643.
Again, Roberts said the goal of such grants is not to simply issue more tickets, but to cut down on dangerous driving infractions such as speeding, running red lights and driving while intoxicated.
“Typically, when you have increased visibility and increased enforcement, there is a positive impact on safety,” Roberts said.