Recently, I was taken to task by a resident who complained that the Pinecrest police should spend their time “catching criminals” and not hassling residents at traffic stops on their way to and from work.
There’s no question that Pinecrest has always had a strong – some would say fearsome – reputation as a municipality demanding respect for traffic laws through stringent enforcement. In 2011, police officers here made 12,365 traffic stops and issued 12,875 citations for observed violations.Nearly three-quarters of these were for moving violations.
Soon-to-retire Chief John Hohensee explained to me that traffic stops fit neatly into the community-oriented policing approach favored by Pinecrest. One of its most basic tenets is that local police are responsive to the citizens they serve. The number one complaint our police department and I as a Village Council member receive relates to traffic and aberrant driver behavior.
Over the past two years, our police have gotten 50 speeding complaints on streets such as Southwest 60th and 62nd Avenues, 100th and 102nd Streets, and 81st Avenue, to name just a few. When chronic speeding is documented, our police typically respond by conducting traffic surveys and setting up traffic stops. Other conditions that trigger traffic stops: Observation of frequent stop sign, red light and other moving violations.
As a result of traffic stops, Pinecrest police have served 44 arrest warrants over the past four years. In each of these incidents, they managed to take a wanted person off the streets who otherwise would have been free to perpetrate other illegal acts.
I asked Chief Hohensee for several examples of how traffic enforcement in Pinecrest led to catching criminals over the years. Here’s what he provided:
• In 2001, one of our officers stopped a car that that went through a stop sign and discovered that the driver was looking for a place to dump his deceased passenger, whom he had murdered.
• In 2005, one of our officers made a routine traffic stop and discovered 20 grams of heroin.
• In 2007, a stop for a speeding violation resulted in identification of the driver as responsible for a hit and run that had just occurred in another jurisdiction, as well as the seizure of eight pounds of marijuana.
• In 2010, a routine traffic stop resulted in the arrest of the driver for several recent robberies in Miami-Dade County and the recovery of a firearm.
• Last summer, a midnight shift stop for a minor traffic violation resulted in the arrest of three individuals who admitted they were in the area casing targets to burglarize. One was charged with stealing a boat motor in Palmetto Bay earlier that evening.
The chief reminded me that nationally, Oklahoma bombing suspect Timothy McVey, serial murderer Ted Bundy and Atlanta child killer Wayne Williams were all apprehended as a result of routine traffic stops.
The Pinecrest Police Department recently produced its highly informative 2011 annual report that you can access through the Village website at www.pinecrest-fl.gov. The report presents crime statistics, including comparisons by category over the years, as well as the details of creative efforts in a variety of areas to catch criminals and prevent crime.
Traffic stops are just one tool in the arsenal, but they contribute significantly to the overall success the department enjoys in protecting residents and businesses.
Bob Ross has served as Pinecrest Village Councilmember, Seat 1, since 2008.