Don’t blame traffic deaths on level of enforcement, police say

Abbotsford Police has reduced number of traffic cops in recent years

Abbotsford Police Const. Pat Kelly aims a radar gun at traffic on Downes Road and Murphy Street in February.

Abbotsford Police Const. Pat Kelly aims a radar gun at traffic on Downes Road and Murphy Street in February.

The Abbotsford Police Department has reduced the number of officers in its traffic enforcement section, as part of a reorganization that puts more focus on fighting major crimes and gang activity.

The APD now has five of its 220 members dedicated to writing traffic violation tickets, while Delta, a less populous municipality, has 11 of 180 members in its traffic section. The APD traffic section had a total of nine members in 2013.

Both police departments have written a similar number of violation tickets in the last year, with APD writing 6,544 violations between Aug. 1 of 2015 and Aug. 1 of this year and the Delta Police Department writing 6,459 in the same period.

Traffic enforcement is unique among police responsibilities in that it splits public opinion 50/50, according to APD Const. Ian MacDonald. Half the feedback he gets on the subject is strongly in favour of more enforcement, while the other half says the police should be doing less enforcement and concentrating on more serious crimes.

MacDonald said members of the public can express their opinion on the subject in an online survey at abbypd.ca/survey.

If the APD wanted to bolster numbers in its traffic section, it would either have to move existing members from other sections or seek more funding from the city to hire new members, said MacDonald.

The level of traffic law enforcement is not necessarily a factor in recent fatalities on Abbotsford roads, according to MacDonald.

He said enforcing traffic laws does help to remind drivers to slow down in school zones and follow other rules, but it has less of an effect in preventing collisions which result in serious injuries and fatalities.

“The difference, at times, between somebody suffering a serious injury [or not] has a lot to do with the individual and the precise physics of the actual crash,” said MacDonald.

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