Ask a Chief: It seems like every time I drive through town I see police cars on traffic stops; isn’t there anything better for them to do?

Answer: Although it may appear that all the police do is “pull over speeders,” a good portion of a patrol officer’s time is spent responding to calls for service, and patrolling neighborhoods, or businesses. Traffic enforcement is a high priority for the police department though, because it is a leading area of concern for our citizens.  Speeding and stop sign or semaphore violations are among the most frequent complaints received by the police department.  Thousands of vehicles travel through our city each day on two major highways, county roads and local streets.  Though traffic crashes remain a leading cause of injuries and death in this county and state, aggressive traffic enforcement has helped reduce traffic fatalities to the lowest levels in decades.

Traffic enforcement is strongly encouraged for three primary reasons. The first is to stop an active violation of a state law or city ordinance for public safety. Second, the traffic stop is an opportunity to change the future behavior of the driver. Third, the traffic stop is meant to be highly visible and to act as a deterrent and reminder to other drivers. All of these combined help to keep the streets and highways as safe as possible.  Traffic stops also serve other benefits to the general public. A traffic stop for a seemingly minor violation may lead to evidence of a larger, more serious offense such as: DWI, drug offenses, or burglary and theft.  One traffic stop in Elk River for a minor traffic violation resulted in the rescue of the kidnapped vehicle owner who had been forced in to the trunk of her own car after she stopped to pick up two hitch hikers.  We certainly seek out, respond to and investigate serious crimes but quite honestly, active traffic enforcement is one of the best things we can do to keep the community safe.—Chief Brad Rolfe, Elk River Police Department