Federal grant funds 2 traffic cop positions in Holly Springs

08/07/2014 1:33 PM

08/07/2014 1:33 PM

Police will soon have twice as many eyes to watch for reckless drivers.

The Holly Springs Police Department recently received a $193,000 federal grant through the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program to fund two new positions on the town’s traffic safety unit, which currently boasts two officers.

The department has placed greater emphasis on road safety in recent years as the town has grown, said Chief John Herring.

This is the second time that Holly Springs has applied for and acquired a GHSP grant to pay for two traffic officers. The first came in 2010, when the department received $167,000.

Officers Allan Laws and Mitchell Ham doubled the number of traffic tickets issued within a year, and the number of driving-while-impaired arrests increased about 47 percent from 2010 to 2013, largely because of their efforts.

Despite the creation of the traffic unit in 2010 and road improvements made throughout town, traffic crashes have remained flat since then.

“With the development and growth projected for Holly Springs, there is no reason to believe these (crash) numbers will decrease,” Laws wrote in the department’s application.

Traffic is a top concern for Holly Springs leaders. The town recently acquired funds to realign the intersection of Avent Ferry Road and the N.C. 55 Bypass – an area prone to long traffic backups.

Residents have also complained about crosswalks near local schools being too dangerous because drivers don’t yield to pedestrians.

In addition to monitoring traffic around town, the department hopes an expanded traffic unit will increase DWI arrests by 5 percent and seat belt citations by 10 percent.

In 2013, the Holly Springs traffic unit arrested 117 people for driving while impaired and cited 290 people for seat belt infractions.

The officers will also be responsible for conducting DWI and seat belt checkpoints, participating in GHSP-sponsored events, responding to traffic accidents and encouraging young drivers to drive safely.

The unit already does a great job, Herring said. The town received recognition from AAA Carolinas in 2012 for being a “Traffic Safe” community.

But to maximize the traffic unit’s potential, the police department needed at least two more officers, he said.

“When you talk about 168 hours a week, 365 days a year, it takes at least five officers,” he said. “This is going to allow us to have the unit’s resources 24/7.”

The grant pays for equipment, training, salaries, benefits and travel for three years. Holly Springs will pay $34,000 the first year and will take on the entirety of the costs after the third year.

Herring said he plans to transfer two of the department’s current officers to the traffic unit, then hire two patrol officers.

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