Fairbanks police ordered to make traffic stops

FAIRBANKS — The chief of the Fairbanks Police Department has ordered patrol officers to make at least eight traffic stops every week.

Chief Laren Zager announced the quota last week in an internal memo and said it could lead to a decrease in crime. Traffic stops, he said in his memo, are more effective than patrols in lowering collisions and crime.

“Our profession has only recently come to appreciate the irrefutable correlation between collisions and crime, a relationship that is explained easily: Risk-taking behaviors of any sort — gambling, skydiving, careless driving or committing crimes — needs a place and opportunity to happen. Find the place where both are happening frequently (called ‘hot spots’), focus intensive traffic enforcement there, and both collision rates and crime rates will drop,” he said in the memorandum.

Traffic stops do not have to result in citations, Zager told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and Fairbanks residents should not expect huge enforcement changes.

The city has five officers dedicated to traffic enforcement. Another 30 or so are patrol officers and some already make multiple traffic stops per day, Zager said.

“I don’t think the public has to be at all concerned with risking a much, much higher exposure to a traffic citation,” he said. “It will bump up some, but I’ve even told City Hall don’t expect this to be a flood gate of money coming in. This is mostly going to be mostly warnings, checking with the driver, doing warrant checks.”

The department is using computer software to designate hot spots for enforcement.

Officers have been receptive to the new policy, he said, but may become frustrated if they have to explain why they did not meet their quota.

“That eight traffic stops a week is not a huge shift. It just sets the bar. They (the officers) now know kind of what I mean when I say patrol is really going to have to participate in traffic enforcement,” he said.

He expects patrol officers to fit traffic stops into uncommitted time they would have used for patrols or paperwork.

The city mayor’s office said Zager had briefed him about the new policy.

“He (Zager) brings a constant flow of ideas to us,” said Pat Cole, Mayor Jerry Cleworth’s chief of staff. “He’s been on this idea for a while, and he finally decided he’d gotten some other problems solved and decided to get on this issue.”

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