Speed-limit and stop signs have long been regarded as mere suggestions rather than rules in Nicholasville, city commissioner Johnny Collier says. But that could soon change as the city’s police department is seeking to add a traffic enforcement division whose officer will have a single job — traffic enforcement.
“I’ve told Johnny from day one that we do not do a real good job curtailing or enforcing our speed limits in the city,” police chief Barry Waldrop said at Monday’s city-commission meeting. “There’s not a week that goes by that somebody doesn’t call in complaints about people speeding on their street.”
Waldrop said one of the biggest problems in combating traffic enforcement issues is manpower. He said during a normal shift, there are anywhere from five to six officers on duty.
“We answer over 40,000 calls a year, which is over 100 calls day,” Waldrop said. “We’re not sitting at donut shops eating donuts. We are busy people, and we don’t really have the time to concentrate on the streets to slow people down and enforce the speeding laws like we should.”
After meeting with Collier, the police chief has come up with a plan to hire two additional officers for a new traffic division.
“I think we really need to look at forming a traffic division,” Collier said. “It’s going to take some study, and it’s going to take some work from chief Waldrop and the police department.”
Waldrop said having officers who focus only on traffic issues will be a huge help.
“They work no calls; they work no cases,” Waldrop said. “They do nothing but work streets and write speeding tickets and citations for people running stop signs; that would be their sole purpose in life.”
Waldrop said once the two officers are hired and trained, they would begin enforcement.
“We will move them around all over the city, and people will start noticing and they will start making a difference,” Waldrop said. The police chief said other officers would also do traffic enforcement as well.
The police department has and will continue to deploy speed trailers equipped with radar in selected parts of the city to help study the areas of need.
“A lot of times, we will take the radar and set up for five or six days,” Waldrop said. “It gives us the information because it records every car that goes by; it tells us the time and the speed. And we can identify by that data that we have a serious problem in that area, and we will try to hit it more.”
Commissioner Pete Sutherland asked if the city could benefit financially from more tickets.
“We don’t get anything,” Waldrop said. “It goes to the state; you don’t want the (city) to make money off tickets; that would be a bad thing.”
As for a means to pay for the additional officers, Collier said the police department never filled the vacancy left by retired assistant police chief John Branscum last year.
“What he made will probably pay for the two additional officers,” Collier said.
Collier also said the city has been aware of this problem for a number of years and he hopes it won’t take that long for it to act on the proposal.
“We’re going to try to do this pretty quick because it’s something that has been going on forever, so we don’t need to sit around and talk about it,” Collier said.