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Traffic and Parking Citations Up

Police say more enforcement means less accidents.

You didn’t just imagine it.

Over the past year, traffic citations have spiked in the city, the result of increased enforcement operations by the Petaluma Police Department to apprehend drivers who are breaking the law.

Moving violations shot up by 41 percent from last year, while parking citations have nearly doubled, according to police statistics.

“It’s a department wide effort,” says traffic sergeant Ken Savano. “Historically, DUIs had been our biggest priority, but we also realized that we had to address other issues such as moving violations, bicycles and pedestrians.”

Over the past year, the police department has been using grants from the Office of Traffic Safety to conduct operations aimed at things like safe driving by motorcycle riders, cell phone use and bicycling violations.

Contrary to popular perception that increased citations are a way to meet quotas or boost department revenue, Savano says the only goal is to increase awareness and educate drivers.

“Issuing traffic citations is the least desirable part of our jobs, but we do it because we know it changes behavior,” he says, adding that there is an inverse relationship between citations and accidents.

“What we’ve seen is that when we increase enforcement, collisions go down,” he says. 

Petaluma is ranked as one of the worst among cities of a similar size for bicycle and pedestrian accidents as well as young drivers under the influence, the reason it has received numerous grants from the Office of Traffic Safety. It also leads a cluster of 103 similar sized cities in terms of DUI arrests, meaning that drunk driving continues to be a problem here.

When it comes to parking citations, a whopping 261 were given out by March 2012 compared to just 132 the same time last year. Savano attributes this to a new part-time parking officer hired in January 2012. Two other full-time parking agents also make sure downtown drivers don't leave their cars in one spot all day long.

"It's important to keep those spaces open and available for people going there to shop," Savano says.

What do you think? Are you concerned about the increase in both parking and traffic tickets? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Karina Ioffee May 17, 2012 at 01:20 AM
The thing to keep in mind about statistics is that they can be manipulated to tell any sort of story you want to. So we always try to provide context. I checked arrest information year to date as of March 2012 vs. YTD in March 2011 and saw that misdemeanor arrests were down, especially for juveniles, but felonies were up. Re: what the department is focusing on. There has definitely been more of an emphasis on traffic, but the department is using grants that are specifically designed at these type of operations. So while the number of gang members may be increasing, the city cannot necessarily focus its resources on it if it doesn't have grant or other special funding for it because that would violate the terms of the grant. I hope that makes sense.
Middle Class May 17, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Those that have been wrongfully convicted and sent to jail were convicted by a jury of thier peers, that's citizens like us. Yes, the police are just like us and the vast majority of us are good and honest. It's a very small percentage of officers who are corrupt. Our elected officials gave law enforcement an exemption to use a cell phone while on duty. But it sounds like you have made up your mind and closed it.
Richard O'Hare May 17, 2012 at 07:20 AM
Karina, According to your article, the PPD's position is that the increased citations are not money driven but instead solely to increase awareness and educate drivers. "Contrary to popular perception that increased citations are a way to meet quotas or boost department revenue, Savano says the only goal is to increase awareness and educate drivers." I don't buy this. If such additional enforcement is needed to keep us safe, why wasn't the PPD doing this enforcement when it was fully staffed? Let's face it, with the budget crisis, the PPD is fighting for survival... its going to generate revenue where it can. It takes a lot of money to investigate a rape or other violent felony with little return. On the other hand, handing out citations to jaywalkers is relatively inexpensive and generates significant revenue. Are we really better off because a person who safely crossed Kentucky Street, but outside the crosswalk, got a citation? The real question from a State and Local policy perspective is do we really want to generate revenue from hyper-enforcement of minor infractions?
Jennifer Gomez May 17, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Yes convicted by a jury of their peers on a case "made" by the police. You have to have quite a bit of "evidence" to get the DA to go to trial, I wonder how that happens? As to the police using cell phones while on duty, once again, they make their own rules.... Thank you for telling us about the special exemption given to them by our elected officials.
Samantha Barsky October 16, 2012 at 11:24 PM
I was given a ticket downtown in a 2 hour zone, but I was only parked for 45 minutes. I contested the ticket in writing, but it was upheld, so i requested a court date. At the hearing, the ticket was dismissed due to lack of evidence from the city. I suspect there is a bit of foul play happening here on the part of the city. I wonder how many of these tickets are real, and they are counting on people not taking the time to contest a $48 ticket.

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