Police awarded for Route 58 enforcement

Published 9:10 pm Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Suffolk Police Department earned the 2017 John T. Hanna Award for Outstanding Achievement in Law Enforcement Initiatives for its proactive traffic enforcement of the western section of Route 58.

The department received the award from Drive Safe Hampton Roads on Wednesday evening.

“This is a known problem looking at traffic information,” said Suffolk Police Department Maj. Steve Patterson. “From Route 58 to downtown, we count 74,000 cars a day. That’s the most traffic in the whole city.”

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In 2017, the data on the stretch of road was a big reason for setting up an enforcement area. In December 2016, there were four fatal crashes, according to Patterson.

“This is a very dangerous stretch of road,” Patterson said.

Once the enforcement initiative was set into motion, from January to October of last year, the department reported lowering both property damage accidents and injury accidents. Property damage accidents were lowered by 68 percent, and injury accidents were lowered by 60 percent.

“We have had a good impact, and we reduced accidents,” Patterson said. “We were surprised ourselves by the results.”

Officers from both precincts and special operations personnel were involved with the effort to reduce traffic accidents. They achieved this through a number of traffic enforcement methods — visibility, running radar, vehicle pacing and unmarked cars.

Police also used social media to get the message of traffic safety out to the citizens.

The department also began handing out brochures when they would pull over cars to provide education on traffic safety.

“If we stop and educate you with a brochure, you may pass it on to your friend,” Patterson said. Being proactive is providing education as well.”

The project required dedication from the police officers, and they continue to work the area even with the decline in accidents, though they do give focus now to more high-traffic and high-crash areas.

“The men and women of Suffolk Police earned this award,” Patterson said. “Lt. Timothy Duncan is the one that spearheaded this project for us. He did an outstanding job.”

While the police department has continued its efforts to maintain traffic safety, it depends on citizens knowing how to stay safe to keep the numbers down.

“We can only do so much,” Patterson said. “We depend on citizens to drive safely. We don’t want to do traffic enforcement. We only want to keep people safe. It’s the stuff we have to do to keep the people safe, and we can’t do it alone.”