OSWEGO — The University Police department at SUNY Oswego recently won the 2009 New York State Law Enforcement Challenge for traffic safety.
The award, presented May 4 in the colleges and universities category, honors the 24-officer department for public education efforts and enforcement in three major traffic safety areas: occupant protection (seatbelts/car seats), impaired driving and speeding. The department’s entry now moves on to the National Law Enforcement Challenge.
University Police Chief Cynthia Adam credited all the officers who participated, and singled out Lt. Kevin Velzy, who obtained grants to pay for stepped-up education and enforcement, and prepared the entry booklet for the competition.
“Traffic safety has always been a high priority on our campus, and we are proud of the efforts of our officers and community in regard to the specific area of reducing impaired drivers on our campus and motor vehicle accidents involving personal injuries,” Adam said.
University Police reported there were 74 vehicle crashes in 2009, a nearly 25 percent decrease from 98 the previous year. The department also stepped up enforcement of speeding, issuing 125 tickets in 2009 compared with 96 in 2008.
The department dramatically increased seatbelt citations, issuing 176 tickets in 2009, compared with 45 in 2008 and just four in 2007. At the same time, University Police also conducted a traffic survey that found seatbelt compliance increased to 88 percent from 75 percent year over year.
“We secured grants from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, and that allowed us to put more patrols out on the road,” said Velzy, who accepted the award from state Motor Vehicles Commissioner David Swarts at the Empire State Law Enforcement Traffic Safety Conference in Syracuse.
Velzy and Adam noted the department offered overtime in four-hour blocks as an incentive for officers to take part in the challenge, utilizing state funds provided through the grant. “The overtime allows us to focus on a specific function,” Adam said. “Normally, our officers are doing a variety of duties on a typical patrol shift.”
Enforcement is only part of the story. University Police’s entry covered a wide variety of educational efforts, including Intoximeter, Doppler radar, child passenger safety and other training for the department’s own officers.
Other education initiatives included residence hall presentations about drinking and driving, a bike rodeo and trucks exhibit for younger children, Click It or Ticket publicity and enforcement — the current SUNY Oswego campaign runs through June 6 — and efforts in social media.
“We are bringing prevention and education to our Facebook page, because we think students are more likely to check those sources,” Adam said.
Adam noted that public perceptions and behavior do change over time, and she said a prime example of that is the decades-long campaign to reduce impaired driving through education and enforcement.
“It’s the same with seatbelt violations, and it will be the same with cellphone usage,” she said. “Drivers have to stop using those devices, unless they’re hands-free.”
Adam said Velzy, whose other roles with the department include Emergency Response Team commander and senior firearms instructor, has inspired other SUNY colleges’ departments to buy into the Law Enforcement Challenge, and has assisted them with grant writing and putting entries together.
The New York State Association of Traffic Safety Boards endorses the Law Enforcement Challenge, created in partnership with the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Sheriffs’ Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
For more information about University Police at SUNY Oswego, call 312-5555 or visit www.oswego.edu/administration/police.