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.

Ken May 15, 2012 at 05:55 PM
revenue agent s for citys, counties, and states. What happened to the old premise, that police officers were public servents, not just herassers. Police have lost all my respect due to them constanty screwing with people. Sure them claim it is for safety, then if it is safety they want, get out and patrol
Ken May 15, 2012 at 05:56 PM
and they wonder why p[eople are fed up and moving away. I am almost there myself
Larry May 15, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Good job Petaluma PD! Keep it up. On a daily basis I see speeding, cell phone use and vehicles running stop signs. This is a small town take it slow!! I cross the blvd. at Starbucks downtown twice a day and feel that I am taking my life in my hands crossing. The entitlement crowd will blame the increase in tickets on trying to close the revenue gap. Simple - - - Follow the traffic laws and you wont get a ticket. I have had nothing but good dealings with the PD.
Patrick M. May 16, 2012 at 03:06 AM
Use spell check.
Middle Class May 16, 2012 at 05:32 AM
It's the police departments job to enforce the law, that means all of the laws, all of the time. This sudden increase in tickets makes me question what the police have been doing for the past few years. It looks like the police have decided to start earning thier pension. Keep up the good work Petaluma PD. For the rest of us, if we don't break the law, we won't get arrested. And yes, if you get a traffic ticket, it means you broke a traffic law and were arrested for it.
Miguel May 16, 2012 at 01:34 PM
I love it, they claim in one article they don't have enough officers to handle the growing gang problem in our city but they have plenty to write tickets; interesting. How about spending less time writing tickets and more time investigating real crime? What a concept!
LongTimeLocal May 16, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Truth is, I'm more likely to be killed or injured by someone using the road (read: car, bicycle, even pedestrian), than gangs (yes, spend the money to keep those idiots in check but don't miss the big picture) so, yes, PPD is quite correct in enforcing this, especially as there are people driving at 104mph, or unlicensed kids taking out 4 cars on Kentucky, pervasive drunks and so on. It's not a crime without a victim, and is very much real. Easy to avoid too - follow the rules of the road, have a license, be insured, stay sober. So that's why. Good job Ken and know you and your unit are appreciated (even when I get a ticket for not paying attention - if so, I'm due a reminder but that doesn't change my support).
Richard O'Hare May 16, 2012 at 05:55 PM
I wish the Press would do a little more research and tell us what is really happening. I suspected that citations were up after receiving two citations in 6 months after having 15 years of citation free driving. But then in an April 13 article the Press Democrat reported; "The number of arrests, traffic stops and citations in Petaluma have plummeted recently" blaming the cash-strapped city having less officers on the street. Indeed, summing up the interim police chief's excuse, the paper reported, "[w]ith a reduced police force, officers must spend more time responding to emergency calls, so they have less time to actively look for lawbreakers." Now the press is reporting that arrests are up. I was surprised by the argument that the police force is so understaffed that they cannot look actively for lawbreakers since just a week before, the paper had reported on a police operation that was targeting jay walkers. Huh? If you are short on staff, why are you wasting resources to cite jaywalkers or kids riding their bikes without a helmet..? I believe the simple answer is that the Police force is looking for any source of revenue it can get. If it can get a grant to create a special jaywalking enforcement team, it will do just that. What the city should be keep in mind that it is alienating its locals and creating bad-will with visitors who are stopped and/or cited for very minor infractions.
Jennifer Gomez May 16, 2012 at 09:53 PM
This is an interesting perspective. I guess you haven't read about any of those people that were wrongfully convicted and jailed for years. The police are people just like us, some are good some are beyond bad. They lie, cheat and steal and I just saw one on his cell phone in his shiny new police station wagon. That would cost you a minimum of $159.00 if he happened to notice you on your cell phone. They play by a different set of rules and the majority believe they are above the law. That is a dangerous mentality. You are being obtuse if you really believe you have to do something illegal to be cited or arrested. Just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I have seen it in action, it is frightening and you will never look at law enforcement the same way. YOU are the enemy in their eyes.
Stinky May 16, 2012 at 11:30 PM
"It's important to keep those spaces open and available for people going there to shop," Savano says. Um, so while parked in a two-hour zone and spending two hours and 8 minutes shopping and eating, a $48 citation was issued. Do you think I'm going to be spending money in downtown Petaluma again? The force is too vigilant toward parking, and not vigilant enough about moving violations. Crime? That's another story.
LongTimeLocal May 17, 2012 at 12:52 AM
If you can prove it was just a few mins, call PPD. They're a pretty understanding bunch and may be able to work with you. Any ticket can be contested. They worked with me when I was delayed with good reason and cancelled it. Common sense prevailed, but 2 hours is 2 hours so check your watch. It does keep spaces open and 2 hrs is usually enough for most things.
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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