It may not be your typical police title, but the Traffic Safety Specialist designation granted to two TUPD officers is resulting in significant safety improvements for the campus and increased visibility for the TUPD.
A collaborative effort between the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions, the Maryland Sheriff’s Association, the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and the Maryland Highway Safety Office, the Traffic Safety Specialist (TSS) program recognizes police officers who have achieved specific levels of training, experience and proficiency in traffic enforcement. To qualify as a TSS, police officers must submit an application showing at least two years of independent patrol/traffic experience; certification for the use of speed detection devices and the performance of field sobriety tests; and documenting completion of traffic-related awards, courses and formal education. It’s a fairly elite group—there are only 300 TSS designees statewide—and yet nearly 10% of the TUPD’s patrol force either has, or is in the process of getting, the title.
“If you look at this on a percentage basis, TU is showing quite a commitment to the Traffic Safety Specialist program,” Chief of Police Bernie Gerst said. “In comparison to other larger police departments within the system, the TUPD has a much higher percentage of officers with the designation. We see the value of the program because we know that traffic safety is public safety.”
This fall, the TUPD’s traffic safety specialists focused on improving the traffic flow and safety along Cross Campus Drive. After several complaints about pedestrian safety and vehicular speed surrounding the crosswalks near the Glen Garage and Union, TSS designee Corporal John Ross began implementing measures to reduce the problem. Corporal Ross and his colleagues established crosswalk enforcement patrols at two key areas along the drive and stationed details at each area during high-traffic periods. The stationed officers watch for flow of traffic in the area, assist pedestrians crossing the road and enforce any visible traffic violations. In just a few months, the measures have resulted in decreased crosswalk violations and increased pedestrian awareness.
“We’ve seen a tremendous drop in the number of violations at crosswalks on Cross Campus,” Ross said. “Drivers are now understanding that they need to stop and let pedestrians cross the street, and pedestrians are more aware that they need to wait for vehicles to make a complete stop before entering the street.”
Chief Gerst says traffic problems that have occurred in the area happened in locations where TSS measures were not in place.
“We had an incident with a pedestrian this week on the west end of Cross Campus, where we don’t currently have patrols,” Gerst said. “Incidents like this only show the need for us to continue to build upon the measures implemented by our TSS officers.”
The benefits of the traffic measures are twofold: they make the campus an easier place for traveling and a safer place for living. Recent police studies have shown that traffic enforcement helps to reduce instances of crime in addition to lowering the number of traffic-related accidents and fatalities. The increased police visibility resulting from traffic enforcement gives the community a sense of omnipresence, serving as a powerful deterrent for criminals.
“In today’s economy we’re always looking at ways to do more with less and increase the visibility of police without having to hire more officers,” Ross said. “Traffic enforcement is one of the ways to do that, and so we’re being as proactive as we can.”
For more information about the Traffic Safety Specialist program, go to http://mdle.net/TSS.htm.