Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
The Directorate of Emergency Services military police are stepping up traffic enforcement to create a safer environment for soldiers and their families, particularly in the neighborhoods near the three elementary schools.
“We spent some time doing some traffic stability studies and examining the activities in and around the schools,” said Garrison Commander Col. Harry Hung. “One of the things we’ve found as we go through citations and what we continue to find is that a lot of the violations are taking place inside our neighborhoods.”
Therefore, Hung said, the fort’s police will have a greater presence around the schools during drop-off — roughly 7:45-8:15 a.m. — and pick-up — roughly 3-3:30 p.m. They will stop drivers who are speeding, parking illegally, driving without a seatbelt or using cellphones.
“We’re going to put out all of our policing assets,” Hung said. “Children are our most precious resource that we have here, and we are going to ensure their safety.”
For the next month, Hung said DES will be giving out warnings to drivers, unless they are egregious offenders, such as going 40 miles per hour in a 15 mph zone. Repeat offenders will begin receiving citations in February.
“We’re going to start holding families and individuals accountable, and we’re going to hold the chain of command accountable,” Hung said. “We certainly don’t want that to happen though. What we’re doing here is we want to be able to change the perceptions of our families and our kids and inside the neighborhoods that they can rest assured that we have the presence there, and two, change the behaviors of those who are violating so that they become more compliant.”
Chief of Police Robert Ruskievicz said posted speeds on public roads are enforced daily.
“Officers are continually running radar, but we can’t be everywhere all the time,” Ruskievicz said. “Officers are armed with all the necessary tools to enforce all traffic violations that they may see.
“No person shall operate a motor vehicle at a speed in excess of either the posted speed limit or faster than that speed at which conditions allow for safe driving, whichever is less,” he said. “Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit on the installation is 20 miles per hour.”
The areas around the three elementary schools — Bradley Elementary School, Eisenhower Elementary School, MacArthur Elementary School — have a speed limit of 15 mph.
Grant Avenue from Patton Junior High School to the corner of Grant and Reynolds is usually 30 mph, but from 7-8 a.m. and 2:30-3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, the speed limit drops to 20 mph while students are being dropped off and picked up from school.
Fines for speeding will vary based on the offense.
“Kansas has a fine schedule that increases the fine based on how high above the posted speed limit the driver was traveling,” Ruskievicz said.
If a driver is one to 10 mph over the speed limit, they will be fined $45 plus a $30 court fee. If a driver is more then 10 mph over the posted speed limit, the fine increases $6 for every mph the driver is over. Fines can double for speeding in a posted school zone.
“Tickets for speeding can effect a driver’s insurance rates depending on the insurance company,” Ruskievicz said. “Additionally, citations issued on the installation can affect the privilege to drive on the installation. Drivers who are repeat offenders or have been stopped multiple times for speeding can have their on-post driving privileges suspended for a year.”
Ruskievicz said no one is off the hook.
“Our brave men and women are out there every day to support the mission and protect the public,” he said. “We do not discriminate for rank or status. If you are caught breaking the law, we will enforce it, so please be kind and respectful to our officers.”
The issues of speeding around post first became apparent to Hung during monthly village mayor meetings, which caused him to take action.
Mayors said they are pleased with the efforts being made.
“It seems very promising,” said Tracy Martling, Normandy Village mayor. “We’ve seen a lot of presence of the police force of DES around, especially in the school zones here on post. If they can sustain this push, I think it could make a good impact on the drivers on post.”
Erica Duval, Oregon Village mayor, said being a member of Hung’s safety committee has helped as well.
“It has helped me see things in a different perspective,” Duval said. “That gives that secondary avenue of trying to make a difference and just make this a safer post.”
Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Antwone Jones said the monitoring of school zones and the areas around them is just the first step.
“This is just the starting point, not the end,” Jones said. “We will flex as the need arises.”