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Traffic tickets down more than 84 percent in Roseville

‘Shift’ in police philosophy partially credited for improved traffic, crime stats
By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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During the first seven months of this year, the Roseville Police Department issued 1,578 traffic tickets for moving violations. While that number may not seem significant at first glance, compare that to 10,097 moving violation citations that were handed out in that same time period one year earlier, a difference of more than 84 percent. Those numbers may imply that the Roseville Police Department has gone soft when it comes to issuing traffic tickets, but the department says it is because of a fundamental shift in its philosophy. “The shift is to more of a problem-solving mode,” said Roseville Police Department spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther. “Officers have been told that they have full discretion to do what it takes to solve the problem.” Roseville police chief Daniel Hahn said the department is focusing on solving the root of the problem when it comes to traffic issues, and while writing tickets is still an option for officers, correcting perpetual problem areas and driving habits is more of a priority. “We are charged as a community-oriented police department with working with the community and solving problems,” Hahn said. “The problem is not that we don’t write enough tickets. The problem is that we have traffic issues — more specifically, traffic issues that lead to injuries.” This new philosophy has garnered national media attention as Hahn had an interview with CNN on Sept. 6. It is also beginning to change the public perception of a department that some say has earned a reputation as being “heavy handed” when it comes to traffic tickets, Hahn said. Hahn said while he has received many emails and feedback in support of the new policy, some citizens are still concerned about speeding and unsafe driving. They think more tickets are the solution. “People are speeding and they need to stop, I couldn’t agree more,” he said. “But I don’t want to limit officers to tickets being the only way of stopping it.” Hahn, who took over the department in March, said this new philosophy has been applied to areas throughout the department — and it seems to be working. From January through August, violent crime is down 29 percent, property crime is down 14 percent and traffic collisions are down 9 percent in Roseville, Hahn said. From January through August, there were 25 robberies in Roseville compared to 67 robberies in that same time period last year, Hahn said. Burglaries are also down 13 percent from 356 to 310, he said. “Those are pretty significant numbers, so something is working,” Hahn said. Hahn does not solely credit the police department with the improvements, however. Rather, he said it is a number of contributing factors including community awareness and involvement. “We are going to keep getting better and the community is going to get better in how they can help, so hopefully we’ll keep seeing those trends going down,” Hahn said. Bruce Sutherland, of Granite Bay, said there are more important things in life than parking tickets and minor traffic infractions, but he is curious how much money the city is losing as a result of less traffic violations. “I think half of the reason for tickets is a revenue stream for the city, so I’m sort of wondering what they are replacing it with,” Sutherland said. Hahn said the issue of money or revenue has never come up in any conversations he’s had with city officials, and that the collective goal of city leaders is to improve the quality of life for its citizens. “I can definitely tell you I have no clue the total dollar amount we’ve pulled in now or in years past,” he said. “I’ve never asked, I never will ask, and I definitely don’t want my officers asking.” According to Gunther, the most common traffic infraction is speeding between 1 and 15 miles per hour over the speed limit in Roseville, which carries an average fine of $233. After state penalty assessments, surcharges and court fees, the city gets $31.50 of that fine, according to a statement released by the Roseville Police Department. Between January 1 and July 31 of this year, the city received $241,000 in vehicle code fine revenue, compared to $381,000 for that same period in 2010, Gunther said. Toby Lewis can be reached at tobyl@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TobyLewis_RsvPT.