Trooper Chris Masters, KSP Post 12, checking registration and insurance of motorist. (Picture courtesy of Kentucky State Police Dept.)
By Sherry H. Bray, Public Information Coordinator, Kentucky State Police
FRANKFORT, Ky. - With fuel prices hovering around four dollars per gallon, law enforcement agencies are struggling with over-extended operational budgets. Kentucky State Police (KSP) felt the 'pain at the pump' and were forced to create a new enforcement strategy that would offset the impact fuel prices were having on the agency.
"When you're faced with an unexpected rise in costs like we've experienced, you have to devise a solution," said KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer. "The problem is identifying that solution without changing the level of protection and enforcement currently in place across the Commonwealth."
In May, KSP purchased 160,000 gallons of fuel compared to May 2007 when 170,500 gallons were purchased. The dilemma being that the fuel cost to the agency increased by $132,000 compared to last May for six percent less fuel. For this reason, KSP developed a summer enforcement campaign that they hoped would conserve fuel usage while still maintaining enforcement efforts.
Operation Safe C.H.E.C.K. (Concentrated Highway Enforcement Checkpoints in Kentucky) was rolled out July 1st and ran through Labor Day Weekend. The campaign strategy was to include 200 road checks statewide during this time period. KSP utilized collision data to target specific high-crash locations in each post area where high visibility checkpoints would be held.
Reducing the number of roving patrols while increasing stationary checkpoints decreased the amount of fuel being expended. Embracing the concept of deterrence through sustained high visibility enforcement was just one facet of the campaign. The most important goal when establishing the program was to maintain the same level of public safety.
"Regardless of the cost of fuel, you have to provide protection," said Brewer. "But if there are ways to offer effective law enforcement and save lives while reducing fuel costs, that's what we'll try to do."
Captain Tim Lucas, Commander for the KSP Highway Safety Branch coordinated the summer checkpoint project.
"Operation Safe C.H.E.C.K allowed Troopers to perform license and registration checks while also making personal contact with the public," said Lucas.
"To keep traffic moving, some vehicles were permitted to pass without screening while others were randomly selected for inspection. The drivers who are not stopped for screening are still impacted by the visual exposure of enforcement activity," added Lucas.
Posts were directed to keep traffic moving smoothly at checkpoint locations to limit delays.
In addition to removing impaired drivers from the road, other violations were addressed, such as expired tags, driving without insurance and general vehicle safety operating violations. Checkpoints have also proven to be key in apprehending fugitives and drivers with suspended licenses.
Was the campaign effective? Initial data indicates that the uniformed patrol fleet reduced fuel usage by 3,770 gallons during the two-month campaign (compared to the same time period in 2007). 'Operation Safe C.H.E.C.K.' saved the agency $14,000 in fuel costs.
"Earlier this summer, I challenged the Posts to reduce the number of roving patrols and increase stationary patrols by coordinating 200 safety road checks. Not only did they embrace the concept, they exceeded the goal by conducting 1,103 safety road checks statewide," said Brewer.
"To maximize the effectiveness of the campaign, Post Commanders relied upon KSP technology to pinpoint high crash zones in each post area and then established stationary safety checkpoints accordingly," said Brewer.
KSP data shows that between July 1 and September 1, the agency conducted 1,103 safety checkpoints resulting in:
342 Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrests
405 seat belt violations
120 child restraint violations
129 drug arrests
254 suspended license violations
4 stolen vehicles recovered
422 other arrests
35,985 vehicle safety inspections
Although Brewer was pleased with the results, he indicated the agency will remain vigilant in reducing operational costs.
"Regardless of fuel costs, we will continue to provide protection to the Commonwealth while seeking alternative methods to reduce fuel consumption," remarked Brewer.