While property crimes have increased and drug crimes remain a big problem, Nicholasville police have seen citations for traffic violations like speeding and DUI trend downward in recent years.
Nicholasville police Sgt. Scott Harvey said his agency’s statewide reputation has contributed to a gradual drop in DUI tickets from 307 in 2005 to 231 in 2011.
“We have a pretty powerful reputation in the state as being a place that takes DUIs seriously,” he said. “I think that increased education on the state’s part, as well as active enforcement of it on our part, has contributed to that (decreased) number.”
Besides DUIs, the police department also sees many other moving violations such as seat-belt violations and speeding tickets, Harvey said.
Officer Kevin Grimes said during the two-week stretch of the “Click It Or Ticket” campaign (May 21 - June 3), officers wrote 391 seat-belt tickets.
While speeding-ticket numbers have dropped from 2,216 in 2009 to 1,095 in 2011, seat belt citations in the city have yo-yoed. In 2009, the city wrote 514 seat belt tickets; the number dropped to 268 in 2010 and spiked to 519 in 2011.
“I don’t have a good explanation for that — it’s just (the public) hasn’t seen what we’ve seen with all the wrecks where people are unbuckled and what that does to them,” he said.
Harvey said Jessamine County’s seat-belt usage rate is 83.1 percent, just above the state average of 82.2, percent according to the 2011 Safety Belt Usage Survey in Kentucky from the Kentucky Transportation Center.
Traffic fatalities have dropped drastically in Nicholasville since 2009, when Nicholasville had nine traffic-related deaths; the number was four in 2010 and zero in 2011. Thus far in 2012, the city has had one fatal accident when a motorcyclist died on U.S 27 near Kohl’s in April.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” Harvey said. “It tends to stay below five, six or seven in the city. I don’t remember a year in my 14 years that it has been higher than that.
The total number of crashes inside the city limits has also dropped each year since 2009. In 2009, the city police worked 1,284 wrecks; in 2010, the number dipped to 1,253; and in 2011, the officers worked 1,177 accidents.
Over a four-year stretch, the number of false-alarm calls the police have responded to has risen from 1,000 in 2007 to more than 1,200 in 2011, Grimes said.
“That number has steadily increased, and it includes residential and commercial,” Grimes said.
Harvey said false alarms create a safety issue for officers who respond.
“If I’m responding to this business repeatedly, my guard gets lowered each time because I’m thinking that their alarm just went off again,” he said. “If I do that, and if it really is something, then that could get me hurt.”
Harvey also said the time it takes for an officer or multiple officers — depending on the size of the building — to clear a false alarm is also a factor.
“If we get there and find an open door, we have to assume we weren’t the first to find it; we have to assume that the alarm went off because somebody went through that door,” he said. “If it’s a big factory, it might take three or four officers 45 minutes to make sure nobody is in there.”
Harvey said the department’s goal is to decrease the amount of time that officers respond to false alarms, and police are currently working on an ordinance that will levy fines to residents and businesses for repeated false alarm calls.
“We’re not in it to make money,” Harvey said. “That’s not what the false-alarm ordinance is supposed to do; it’s to change behavior.”
Harvey said oftentimes during a false alarm, a key holder is notified and they brush it off saying, “Well, just make sure everything is locked up and I will come in the morning and check it.”
Harvey said an ordinance would help change that attitude.
“If they were required to get up out of bed at 2 in the morning, to come out and check their business because it’s their business, it will change behavior; they’ll fix that problem.”