Regular readers of our weekly Arrest Report may have noticed a significant uptick in the number of traffic citations in the last three weeks. For most of 2016 the Apopka Police Department averaged 35 to 40 traffic citations per week. But in the last three weeks the issued citations has averaged more than twice that number.
According to APD Captain Randy Fernandez, the increase in citation activity is the result of input from Apopka citizens.
"In 2016 Chief McKinley received a lot of feedback from the public," said Fernandez. "Traffic enforcement is a priority in Apopka."
The new City budget has allowed APD to re-allocate resources assigned to traffic issues.
"All of our patrol officers enforce traffic laws," said Fernandez. "But we also have four traffic unit officers who are on the street 100% of the time."
The 2016-2017 budget included funding for two civilian Traffic Infraction Enforcement Officers. The TIEO's now review red light camera videos.
The increased street presence has been noticed by many residents who have seen the officers monitoring vehicle speeds in residential neighborhoods.
"For the most part speed limit enforcement activities are in response to resident complaints," said APD Lieutenant Steve Brick. "When we receive speeding complaints we will often use speed detection sensors to monitor a roadway for a week or more. These sensors collect data on every vehicle that passes. By analyzing the data we can not only determine the number of vehicles that were speeding but also the time of day when the speeding is occurring. This allows us to determine the best time to assign officers to traffic enforcement."
APD uses multiple devices to measure vehicle speeds, including a hand-held laser that allows the officer to target specific vehicles.
While safer roadways are an obvious benefit, routine traffic stops can also bring to light more serious criminal activity. Use this link to read an recent example.
While the Traffic Unit can plan and schedule selected traffic enforcement they cannot plan ahead for one of the most important services they provide to the Apopka community; Vehicle Crash Investigations. On average the traffic unit investigates 20 crashes every week. Since crashes are, by their very nature unplanned, the traffic unit often must suspend other activities to respond as quickly as possible.
APD only investigates crashes that occur in their jurisdiction. Many of the roads around Apopka are actually under the jurisdiction of the Orange County Sheriff's Office. These crashes are investigated by the Florida Highway Patrol.
Officer Cliff MacDonald is currently assigned to the traffic unit and enjoys the challenges associated with crash investigations. "We have to recreate the incident in order to determine exactly what happened," says MacDonald. "But I find solving the hit-and-run crashes the most satisfying."
MacDonald went on to describe a case where the only clue was a car part found at the scene. The part had a serial number and he was able to determine it came from a white Lexus. Investigators pulled the DMV records on all the white Lexus' registered in Florida and narrowed the list to only those registered in Apopka. They were able to visually inspect all but one vehicle. None had any damage. Surveillance indicated the owner of the last vehicle kept it parked in a garage. A search warrant was obtained and, when the vehicle was inspected it was missing the part found by the roadside. Case solved.