Summit County Sheriff’s Office will get dedicated traffic units
FRISCO — The Summit County Sheriff’s Office is getting a couple new deputies this year to help address community concerns regarding traffic enforcement around the county.
Last month, the Summit Board of County Commissioners signed off on two new deputies that will work solely as dedicated traffic enforcement units for the sheriff’s office, a move officials hope will help to make roadways safer and put the minds of anxious citizens at ease.
“Historically our traffic enforcement has been complaint driven, coupled with when our deputies have some available time,” said Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons. “When you’re not tied to a call, or tied to the radio and being told where to go, there used to be time when you had available moments to go do proactive community policing.
“But the number of complaints I’m getting from citizens as we become more congested is huge. As we continue to build more, and as we continue to see more people increasingly coming into the county … our staffing levels just have not kept up with the increased call load. That’s across all jurisdictions.”
FitzSimons said that with an ever-growing volume of cars on Summit’s roadways, along with a number of notable accidents in recent months — including a fatal crash on Highway 9 near Blue River that killed two in August, and a pair of fatal crashes on Highway 6 in October and November — traffic safety has risen to one of his office’s top priorities.
Other law enforcement agencies around the county felt the same, and have banded together over recent weeks to provide some additional high-visibility enforcement around the area, and to shine a light on the necessity for further enforcement efforts.
Beginning in November, the Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol and the police departments in Dillon, Silverthorne, Breckenridge and Blue River all participated in joint traffic enforcement operations in different areas around the county that aren’t as frequently patrolled — including Highway 6 from Loveland Pass to Dillon, Highway 9 from Hoosier Pass to Breckenridge, Swan Mountain Road and more.
Over the course of five separate two-hour enforcement periods from Nov. 6 through Dec. 4, officers combined to pull over a total of 187 cars — issuing 75 citations, five summons, three commercial vehicle inspections and over 100 warnings. FitzSimons said that the majority of citations were for moving violations like speeding, and noted that officers often let drivers off with a warning if the issue wasn’t safety related, such as an equipment problem.
For law enforcement leaders, the sheer numbers of traffic stops during the brief operations served as proof that more dedicated traffic enforcement was needed.
“I think it validated the concerns of the community,” said FitzSimons. “And I think we’ve started to address those concerns. Going into 2020, this gives us a roadmap for how and where to start focusing our attention. … We also know that a couple of the areas we focused on were where some of these fatalities happened. So we feel good addressing some of the speeding complaints there, and maybe starting to change some driver habits again.”
The county commissioners agreed that it was time to begin combatting traffic concerns more head on, at least as far as funding will allow. While it’s unclear exactly how much the deputies will end up costing (particularly once expenses like training and equipment are taken into account) officials said providing even a slightly more robust police presence on the roads was worth the price tag.
“Looking at the big picture of what’s going on in the county in general, more people means more crowding, and more traffic,” said County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier. “Inevitably you’re going to get more traffic issues and more accidents. This sent a clear message that we need to have more people out there on the road. … When people see that law enforcement vehicle, I think just the presence of it has a very calming impact without even considering the enforcement part of it.”
FitzSimons said that once they’re trained, there would be one additional deputy on duty at a time, and that they would be positioned strategically in areas where they might have the biggest impact, like school zones and in subdivisions of unincorporated Summit County. While one more deputy on patrol a day may not seem like a big change, FitzSimons said the addition could make a big impact.
“These deputies will be out there full time providing traffic safety in our community,” said FitzSimons. “It’s a great start, and I’m grateful the commissioners have agreed to support it.”
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