Interesting read. Long article.
Traffic enforcement proven to reduce crime
> by Lawrence Herzog
> In 1994, when police in Peoria, Illinois, decided to make traffic
> enforcement a priority, something remarkable happened. As officers issued
> 24 per cent more traffic tickets over the next two years, traffic
> collisions declined by 21 per cent and total criminal arrests increased by
> 34 per cent. Why? Because when officers pulled over motorists for traffic
> infractions, they found weapons, drugs, suspended drivers and wanted
> criminals. In other words, the Peoria police discovered that policing the
> roads had the unexpected side effect of making the entire community safer.
> Similarly, in 1993, New Year City under Mayor Rudy Giuliani adopted and
> implemented its "Broken Window" approach to law enforcement. Built on the
> belief that small problems lead to larger ones, the strategy focused
> police efforts not just on serious offences such as murder, assault and
> robbery but also on traffic violations, including lesser misdemeanors such
> as jaywalking. The result, in just five years: the city experienced a 44
> per cent decrease in overall crime, including a 60 per cent drop in its
> murder rate.
> Both the Peoria and New York experiences illustrate that it really is the
> little things that matter, says Rob Taylor, Alberta Motor Association
> (AMA) vice president of advocacy and community services "It's vital to
> maintain social order. If people see others getting away with breaking the
> law, there's a ripple effect - the message that those laws aren't
> important. Soon, speeding is acceptable and running red lights is okay.
> Then people get seriously hurt or killed."
> The Traffic Dragnet
> Some of the most notorious criminals have been caught by police while
> driving or during routine traffic checks. They include:
> * Serial killer Ted Bundy was arrested in 1975 after he was pulled over
> by a Utah highway patrolman for driving without his lights on in a Salt
> Lake City suburb.
> * David Berkowitz, the 'Son of Sam," terrorized New York City in the
> mid-1970s, killing six people. Despite a highly publicized hunt, Berkowitz
> was not caught until police investigated a ticket he had been issued for
> parking too close to a hydrant.
> * California serial killer Randy Kraft was stopped in 1983 by the state
> highway patrol for suspicion of impaired driving. He was later charged
> with the murders of 16 young men, although authorities now believe the
> total could well exceed 65.
> * Timothy McVeigh, convicted of the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal
> Building in 1995. He was arrested after the vehicle he was driving had no
> license plate.
> * John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, the Washington, D.C.-area
> sniper suspects, were captured in 2002 while sleeping in their car at a
> rest stop.
> Inspector Dave Mitchell, program manager for RCMP traffic services in
> Alberta, is another firm supporter of the Broken Window approach. Mitchell
> points to Whitecourt, Alberta, as further evidence. In the last year since
> Whitecourt increased traffic enforcement he points out, police have seen
> "a significant decrease in overall crime. Of course, visibility is one
> part of the equation, but so too is the increased awareness that
> enforcement brings."
> An Ontario study (Traffic-Law Enforcement and Risk of Death from
> Motor-Vehicle Crashes, the Lancet, June 2003), for example, shows that
> motorists convicted of traffic violations are 35 per cent less likely to
> be involved in a fatal car crash for at least a month after being
> ticketed. By studying the driving records of 8,975 Ontario motorists
> involved in a fatal car crash between 1988 and 1999, the authors found
> that for every 80,000 tickets issues, a death is prevented. For every
> 1,300 convictions, an emergency room visit is avoided. For every 13
> tickets, there's a $1,000 saving in health care costs, property damage and
> increased insurance premiums. The study notes that this reduction of risk
> is significant when compared with the combined benefits of safety
> improvements since 1950 (including seat belts, air bags and anti-lock
> brakes), structural vehicle design changes that have reduced traffic
> fatalities by 20 per cent.
> Yet even though consistent traffic law enforcement has been proven to save
> lives and make communities safer, funding for police services in Alberta
> and across the country continues to be eroded. From 1975 to 1991, police
> numbers in Canada grew at about the same rate as the population. But in
> the last dozen years, the ratio has skewed considerably. Since 1991, the
> number of Albertans per police officer has increased from 626 to 650 - the
> worst ratio in 25 years. In 2003, Alberta had 4,884 police officers, the
> third lowest ratio in the country, ahead of only Prince Edward Island and
> Newfoundland. At the same time, Alberta's fatality rates continue to
> An independent survey of AMA's 660,000 members in 2003 found that only 38
> per cent felt police have adequate resources to ensure safety on our
> streets and highways. Members noted that Alberta's new Traffic Safety Act,
> which became law in May 2003, is a significant step toward reducing
> carnage on our roads, but that revised laws don't mean much without a
> dedicated commitment of time and resources to enforce them. And responses
> to an informal opinion quiz on the new act in the April 2003 issue of
> Westworld Alberta revealed 71 per cent of respondents believe Alberta
> needs more law enforcement to make the new act work.
> AMA agrees. "Recent cuts in traffic enforcement budgets and personnel must
> be reversed to address the unfavorable trend and enormous costs of traffic
> trauma throughout Alberta," says Don Szarko, director of AMA's advocacy
> and community services. "And we are encouraging governments to set
> standards for traffic law enforcement and provide appropriate funding."
> Recognizing that six times more Albertans die in automobile collisions
> than from homicides, AMA's MISSION POSSIBLE is also partnering with
> stakeholders to increase awareness of the need for traffic enforcement.
> Edmonton Police Service Staff Sgt. Kerry Nisbet acknowledges that a change
> in enforcement strategy is exactly what's needed. "In our last three
> public opinion surveys, traffic safety has come in number one or number
> two at the top of the list of concerns, so we know people are aware of the
> magnitude of the problem. But the traditional attitude has been that
> writing traffic tickets is the job of the traffic section alone."
> Between 1990 and 2001, for example, the number of collisions in Edmonton
> alone jumped by 49 per cent and the number of fatalities by 52 per cent,
> but the number of traffic tickets issued by the Edmonton Police Service
> dropped by 10 per cent. "We need to change the police culture from being
> about chasing the "bad guys" to an understanding that enforcement also
> means prevention. And that by preventing drivers from breaking the traffic
> laws, we are saving lives," Taylor says. "The argument that traffic
> enforcement is merely a cash cow needs to seriously analyzed."
> Still, given that so many Albertans rely on their automobiles for daily
> transport, increased traffic enforcement holds the promise of a deeper
> hole in drivers' wallets. Because not only do Albertans drive 40 million
> kilometres per year (more time behind the wheel than virtually any other
> drivers in the country) many of them do so recklessly.
> "Albertans seem to have a high tolerance for risk, and we're too
> complacent about the toll of crashes on our roads," Szarko observes. "We
> seem to value convenience over safety, and we are perturbed when someone
> tells us we can't break the law. But a driver's license does not give us
> the right to break the laws and endanger the lives of others."
> RCMP Inspector Dave Mitchell says the decision on how to police the roads
> comes down to resources and priorities. "Most policing agencies are
> strapped for cash and manpower and, as the laws and systems become more
> complicated, costs have gone up accordingly. I certainly believe that
> enforcing traffic laws has a ripple effect. But just going out and writing
> tickets by itself doesn't do the job. There needs to be awareness and
> AMA's Taylor concurs: "Research has consistently shown that enforcement is
> far more effective when combined with education. But education and
> awareness also require some serious resources."
> As part of its effort to educate the public about traffic safety and
> motivate behavioral change, the Edmonton Police Service has been lobbying
> government for technology that will help them enforce traffic laws more
> efficiently, including using affidavit evidence from red light cameras for
> speed violations. "Sixty-nine per cent of injuries and 43 per cent of
> fatalities occur at intersections," Nisbet says. "Our data shows a lot of
> motorists are speeding through intersections, and we believe having the
> ability to use the cameras would prompt drivers to approach the
> intersections with more caution and less speed."
> "We now have new resources in the form of technological enforcement, such
> as red light cameras, to help us improve and maintain order on our roads,"
> Taylor says. Those working to reduce the road toll believe a strong
> commitment to enforcing traffic law sends the message that we as a
> community are serious about safety. That commitment will save us
> considerably - in reduced crashes, reduced crime and reduced costs, in
> both hard dollars and human terms.
> A version of this feature originally appeared in Westworld Alberta, the
> Alberta Motor Association's magazine to its members.
> Lawrence Herzog is a freelance writer, digital and film photographer,
> broadcaster and car nut whose traffic safety features have appeared in
> CAA's Westworld magazine for more than a dozen years.