Sheriff’s Message, Week of April 10th
Human behavior is an interesting topic, especially as it relates to crime and punishment. Our leadership directs specific road patrols because of speed complaints. We sit on that road, watching traffic and surprisingly, everyone obeys the posted speed limit. Occasionally someone gets caught speeding, but it was usually the person who made the complaint. The neighborhood sees us, but we routinely get pulled away to handle higher priority calls. Did we really solve anything?
Last month, our deputies made 429 traffic stops throughout the county. With an average of six patrol deputies on shift at any given time across the county’s 2,016 square miles, they cover approximately 900 miles of roads. Residential speeding and intersection traffic light violations are routinely the biggest citizen complaints. It is very disheartening when people verbalize their complaints with comments such as our deputies are “lazy” and “do nothing.”
The question then is how do we change driver behavior? Under our current criminal misdemeanor system, only the driver can be issued a criminal complaint, or commonly known as a traffic citation/ticket. The driver has to be caught in the act, positively identified, and the criminal act must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt. This is why nothing can be done with a citizen’s report of a vehicle license plate they believe was speeding or drove through a red light.
Many states have moved away from a criminal misdemeanor complaint system and to an infraction system for traffic violations. Under the infraction system, the vehicle and its registration becomes the target of basic road rule violations. This enables technology based applications to change driver behavior in order to improve public safety. Calibrated radar cameras can then be placed at intersections and on residential streets. A picture of the license plate along with certified speed or other captured image violations can be sent to the registered vehicle owner with an appropriate administrative fee.
Several years ago, one of my daughters was the recipient of such a fee for a violation she committed in Arizona. Such a change requires state legislative action. Until then, we are just as frustrated as many of you are in getting drivers to slow down and obey the laws.
And finally, unbeknown to many, it was previously illegal to shoot a firearm within the City of Fernley’s 128 square miles, most of which are BLM lands. The Sheriff’s Office worked with the City Council to change Fernley Municipal Code 6.02.02, which passed a law change at its last council meeting. People can now legally shoot within the city limits; however, there is a 1,500 foot rule from buildings and has similar rule exceptions as previously passed by the county. Sometimes changes are a good thing, and this was one of them.
As always, keep the faith