In an effort to boost enforcement in various areas throughout the city, the Peoria Police Department is looking to continue its participation in an ongoing program — one which benefits law enforcement agencies around the state every year.
Each fall, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety provides grants to various agencies to assist in traffic safety efforts. This will be the 16th year the Peoria Police Department has acquired these grants.
Four grants amounting to $160,636, approved at a Sept. 17 council meeting, will support Peoria police’s efforts in the areas of DUI/impaired driving enforcement, pedestrian and bicycle safety enforcement and education, Selective Traffic Enforcement Programs (STEP) and motorcycle safety awareness and education. The bulk of the money will go toward overtime wages, with a few thousand dollars dedicated for supplies.
According to Peoria Police Department spokesman Brandon Sheffert, the grants help with “our normal day-to-day (operations) we don’t necessarily have the ability or time to do.” He said it’s the same concept each year, with the target areas often remaining the same.
“This gives us some extra funding to put officers out there on additional duty or also (get) some equipment,” he added.
According to statistics contained within unsigned contracts for the four grants, which are available on the city’s website, vehicle crashes within the municipality seem to be on the rise between 2015 and 2017. Over these three years, total crashes increased from 2,214 to 2,804, while related injuries increased from 670 to 868.
Crashes due to alcohol increased from 94 to 146 incidents between 2015 and 2017, with those causing injuries increasing from 44 to 86 over the first two years, but decreasing to 57 in 2017.
Fatalities decreased, however. From 2015 to 2016, fatal crashes increased from 11 to 13, though they decreased to four in 2017.
Alcohol consumption related crashes decreased from seven to none over this three-year span.
Similarly, pedestrian-related crashes have decreased. From 2015 to 2016, pedestrian-related crashes increased from 94 to 130, though they dropped to 38 in 2017.
And associated injuries increased from 44 to 86 before decreasing to 20, while fatalities decreased from seven to two over the three years.
Statistics from 2018 were not provided.
While Sheffert said he has observed the statistical trends, he said he does not have an exact answer as to why some statistics are increasing, while others are decreasing.
Regardless, however, officers want to decrease the number of incidents. So, the police department will use the grants to its advantage from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2020.
“What it really does is it gives us the opportunity to make the roadways in Peoria safer,” Sheffert said.
With only two dedicated evening DUI traffic enforcers and limited resources for regular staffing, the department plans to use $80,000 to boost deterrence efforts, according to the first unsigned grant contract. Each grant has a separate contract.
One objective listed by the department is to participate in at least five saturation patrols per quarter in FFY 2020. With the support of the grant, officers can conduct increased patrols during holidays and special events, as well as surrounding bars and restaurants.
Notably, the department is involved in the West Side DUI Task Force — a local coalition of law enforcement agencies who attempt to curb alcohol-influenced driving through partnered saturation patrols — and has participated in more than 70% of the task force’s events last year. In FFY 2020, the department plans to partake in no less than five task force operations per quarter.
“What happens is they have these saturation patrols … they kind of rotate around the Valley. So we host several and then they’ll go to Goodyear, then they’ll go to Glendale,” Sheffert explained.
“What happens is they bring in — rather than us only have our ‘x’ amount of officers on the road for DUI enforcement that night — all these people, and they work in the area to really show that high-visibility enforcement.”
Another objective listed in the contract is to conduct a DUI education session at each of the four Peoria high schools by Sept. 30, 2020, the conclusion of the grant period.
According to the contract, the department’s goals are to decrease impairment-related crashes from 146 in CY 2017 to 138; decrease crash injuries from 57 to 54; and ensure there are no fatalities again, all by the end of 2020. Officers also intend to make more DUI arrests, increasing from 559 in 2018 to 600 by the conclusion of 2019.
Protecting school zones
The Peoria Police Department noticed an ongoing issue with schools: Since 2009 local schools have had the same dismissal time, according to the pedestrian and bicycle safety grant contract.
Police say in the contract this is troubling for traffic, with as many as 60% of students riding to school with their parents.
With adults failing to follow drop-off and pick-up instructions, as well as improperly parking, the 10% of students who bicycle to school are at risk, the contract reports.
The department will use a $32,519 grant to boost back-to-school and school bus zone enforcement projects, as well as to partner with the Peoria Unified School District to identify school bus loading and passing violations.
“For instance, at the beginning of this school year what would happen was we spread our traffic officers out into the different schools or we put them in different places,” Sheffert elaborated. “The first couple of days it’s educational. So they’ll stop people, saying, ‘Hey, you can’t do this; can’t do that,’ and then it turns into enforcement. And usually we do it for a little while and then people kind of get the idea.”
The plan also includes hosting six bicycle rodeos by Sept. 30, 2020, which Sheffert described as a “safety course for bikes for kids.” The rodeos are held in conjunction with Parkfest events.
“They (kids) bring their bikes and we get them all set up. They (officers) run them through a little obstacle course, like showing them how to stop and all those things,” Sheffert said.
He added that sometimes free helmets are fitted and provided.
Other objectives include conducting or participating in an outreach/educational bicycle and pedestrian safety event each quarter during FFY 2020, as well as maintaining a year-round sustained school traffic safety enforcement campaign.
Ultimately, according to the unsigned grant contract, the department aims to decrease pedestrian traffic-related fatalities from two in CY 2017 to one, and serious injuries from 20 to 18, all by Dec. 31, 2020.
Selective Traffic Enforcement
Another GOHS grant, totaling $35,000, will go toward traffic services and speed control.
More than 96% of city households have at least one vehicle and more than 94% need a vehicle for transportation, according to a 2019 demographic profile cited in the unsigned STEP grant contract, so officers identified a need for traffic safety.
Thus far, the department has nine traffic officers, with limited funding for more.
Officers feel the $35,000 will better equip them to enforce speed control, educate the community and deter related traffic issues.
Specifically, the department plans to conduct at least 10 targeted speed enforcement efforts per month during FFY 2020.
It will also “work with the public education specialists, school resource officers and community groups to provide traffic education in each high school and at other department-sponsored training events” and collect data regarding motorists who speed, run red lights or violate other traffic laws during the grant period, the contract specifies.
The ultimate goals are to decrease speed-related crashes from 2,658 in CY 2017 to 2,525; fatalities from four to three; and serious injuries from 811 to 770, all by Dec. 31, 2020.
Officers will also aim to hand out additional speeding and aggressive driving citations: 3,621 in FFY 2020, in comparison to 3,292 in CY 2018.
Motorcycle safety awareness
The fourth and final grant consists of $13,117 for motorcycle safety awareness and education.
According to an unsigned grant contract, police deem there to be a problem arising from an increase of motorcyclists within the city.
That increase, in turn, correlates with increasing collisions, the contract reports.
And with police observing motorcyclists not wearing helmets, officers are looking to boost awareness of safe driving, speed limits and distractions, all areas people pay less heed than they should.
Considerable solutions, as observed by the Peoria Police Department, are placing motorcycle safety awareness signs around the city and crafting public service announcements.
Ultimately, officers hope to decrease speed-related crashes from 2,658 in CY 2017 to 2,525, decrease related fatalities from four to three, and decrease serious injuries from 811 to 770, all by Dec. 31, 2020.
Like some of the other grant areas, officers are looking to hand out more citations. Officers plan to increase speeding and aggressive driving citations from 3,292 in CY 2018 to 3,621 in FFY 2020.
Other objectives include conducting at least 10 targeted speed enforcement efforts per month in FFY 2020, conducting motorcycle awareness presentations at the four local high schools and the annual Peoria Police Department Citizens’ Academy and continuing to modify motorcycle safety training course curriculum.