A STEP in the right direction

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The Minden City Council was given a proposal in a workshop held before the monthly City Council meeting to enter the City into the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program, STEP for short.

In a report published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, STEP is described as, “The premise of the STEP model is that an individual’s discomfort or fear of

being stopped for a traffic safety violation outweighs the desire not to comply

with the law. Like any good deterrence program designed to change motorists’

behavior, STEPs are conducted throughout the year to maintain positive

behavior, public awareness, and law enforcement engagement.

“A strong partnership between traffic safety and law enforcement professionals

forms the foundation of the STEP model. The lead agency representing either

of these two groups typically provides the core staff that takes responsibility 

Guidelines for Developing a High-Visibility Enforcement Campaign to Reduce Unsafe

Driving Behaviors among Drivers of Passenger and Commercial Motor Vehicles.”

The department that would be providing this “core staff” would be the Minden police Department.

In the details discussed in Monday’s workshop, this program would have 2 MPD officers at a time working six hours of overtime six days a week to enable this program. They would patrol the roughly three miles of interstate that is within the city limits, and cars going twelve miles over the speed limit would be met with a ticket with a fine of $250. 

While the primary reason for enacting this program would be public safety, some other benefits that it would bring is the acquisition of vehicles for the MPD’s fleet as well as being another revenue stream for the City.

“Every two years, we’re going to take these two cars and put them in the fleet, and then we’ll buy two more cars, completely rig them out like this, and in the first 90 days of those tickets, we will get completely reimbursed for that. Then we start this process over again. That way they can help build his fleet and we’ll be keeping new cars out on the interstate,” said Mayor Terry Gardner.

Based on projections, the total cost per patrol unit would total $129,516 annually, while the estimated revenue per patrol unit is roughly $1 million. However, it should be noted that these projections were made with an estimated fifteen tickets being given out daily. This means that revenues can vary depending on the amount of tickets an officer is able to give out in one shift. 

This money will not only benefit the police department. In fact, revenues generated from this program will be split between the City of Minden getting 50%, the MPD getting 25%, and the Marshal’s Office getting 25%. 

Part of the appeal of the program is that it can pay for itself, even if the amount of tickets given per day were to be less than projected. After recouping their initial investment, any additional money would be revenue to the city and other departments could use to bolster their budgets. 

“This will let us pay some of our different departments more money. If we don’t start paying more, we’re fixing to be in a pickle,” said Gardner.

“So we’ve got to figure out a way to generate some revenue to pay our people, our people, I mean, they just proved it, a week and a half ago. They came and they worked together. They crossed department lines. We were lucky. We had power and we had water. Our people need to be paid more money.”

Furthermore, enacting this program would allow the department to acquire faster and safer ticketing software and hardware. As Minden’s IT Director Jeff Ellinwood explains, officers would be given a handheld device that can swipe a license, and handle the ticketing process, looking up the driver’s information, processing, the ticket, etc. all digitally. A copy would be printed for the individual to keep for themselves.

“From there, they bring the unit back to the office, they put it in the cradle, and all the tickets are automatically uploaded to the website, which in turn puts it straight into our system. And the tickets there when they come to the window to pay or they want to pay online, it is automatically uploaded and entered and it’s done. It’s a pretty unique system,” said Ellinwood. 

This system would also make data collection regarding the demographics of arrests to be accessed easier, as revealed after Councilman Terika Williams-Walker asked, Well, I want to know what the breakdown is. Male, female, african-american, white. I want to know the reports like that. Who is actually stopped and ticketed on the interstate?”

When she asked if that would be possible with this new system, she was assured that that data would be accessible. 

“So it’s going to be a win-win situation for the police department, the city, and the state court here,” said Gardner.

While the STEP seems like it could be an overall positive move for the City, the Council was not ready to make a vote on it in the following meeting given that they were just presented with the information. There weren;t any flat out no’s, just a desire to have more time to process the information they were just given, especially given the variability of the potential revenues that can come from the program based on the amount of tickets given.

“It’s just that we have said a lot of things today, and I’m like Mrs. Walker, we have enough trouble right now trying to balance this budget,” said Councilman Wayne Edwards. “If what we say here is not what we actually do there’s going to be some issues.”

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