As Violent Crime Drops in Pr. George’s, Police Turn Focus To Road Deaths

GLENDALE, Md. (WNEW) — While violent crime continues to fall in Prince George’s County, the number of people killed on the roads each year has stayed about the same.

This year, with 59 deaths so far, the county is on pace to see a slight uptick from the previous two. That contrasts with a murder rate that is down to 45 so far. Now police are planning to take the methods they used to help cut down violent crime and apply it to safety on the roads.

It will start with a reorganization of the traffic enforcement division. Those officers will be moving from the oversight of the Special Operations Division to the Patrol Division.

That way, “we’re going to have that group, which is primarily responsible for roadway safety enforcement, work more closely with the collision analysis and reconstruction team, which is the group responsible for investigating our fatal accidents,” says assistant chief Hank Stawinski.

The reasoning is simple.

“By using good data from the people who are responsible for investigating fatal accidents, we’re going to tailor our enforcement strategy with traffic enforcement to those corridors where we have the highest number of collisions,” Stawinski says.

“We’re also going to use the resources of the collision analysis and reconstruction team to take a closer look at the roadways and beyond enforcement look at possible engineering solutions,” that would slow down traffic in areas were the statistics show problems are occurring.

He acknowledges it would mean working closer with other agencies at the state and county level to make that possible.

However, Stawinski argues this isn’t about writing tickets or cracking down on people.

He also envisions using “a series of campaigns using variable message boards, perhaps the speed indicator trailers, and then obviously enforcement to slow those corridors down,” reducing the likelihood of a collisions.

He believes doing all of this does more than just make the roads safer, that it makes entire communities safer and lead to drops in crime across the board.

“Driving behavior is a very visible indicator of order in a community,” he says. “So if someone was to come visit Prince George’s County and they see a lot of people running through stop signs, driving through red lights, driving at excessive speeds, they’re going to conclude that this is a community that affords people the opportunity to not comply with the laws.

“If you drive to a community and you find that there’s order, that people are obeying the traffic laws largely, then you send a message, a very strong message, that that sort of behavior is discouraged. From that, what I’m suggesting is that good traffic enforcement sets a tenor for the community, and that tenor carries through to property crimes, it can carry through to violent crime.”

With spread sheets and reports scattered on a table in his office, he makes clear he’s determined that “in 2015, roadway enforcement and fatal collisions will be as big a focus – on equal footing – with our focus on violent crime and the homicide rate.”

WNEW’s John Domen contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.

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