New Rock Hill Police initiative targets high crime, traffic area

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJanuary 29, 2013 

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    As part of the new strategy, police will perform more traffic stops for:

    • Aggressive driving • Following too close • Speeding • Inattention • Failing to yield to right of way • Failing to stop for a red light • Equipment violations

    Streets included in the DDACTS area are: Celanese Road, Cedarview Court, Stoneypointe Drive, Hunters Chase Boulevard, Automall Parkway, Riverview Road, North Anderson Road, North Cherry Road, Mallard Terrace, Eden Terrace, Patriot Parkway, Interstate 77 northbound, Interstate 77 southbound, Welch Street, Plaza Boulevard and Brookview Court.

— Drunk drivers, drug dealers and speedsters take heed: More police officers and state troopers will soon swarm an area of Rock Hill officials warn is plagued with overlapping crime and car crashes.

“It is one place where traffic collisions, violent crime and property crime kind of intersect,” said Rock Hill Police Chief Chris Watts during a news conference Tuesday morning.

That “place” includes the streets and roads enveloping North Cherry and Celanese Roads, where data shows police have responded to almost 500 property crimes, more than 120 violent crimes and several collisions within the past year.

Law enforcement’s solution is to bump up traffic enforcement and net the criminals they say use vehicles to transport their guns, drugs and stolen property while simultaneously encouraging drivers to play it safe on the roads.

Called the Data Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS), the initiative joins together the Rock Hill Police Department, State Transport Police and the Highway Patrol.

“It’s not a ticket-driven initiative,” Watts stressed.

“What we’re trying to do is basically kill two birds with one stone,” through more traffic enforcement and visibility, said Rock Hill Capt. Steve Parker, who spearheaded efforts to secure DDACTS for the department. “We want the criminal element to understand that they’re not going to want to come into that area.”

The state Department of Public Safety reached out to police, telling them that Rock Hill, along with Sumter, Traveler’s Rest and Florence, had “all the tools” necessary to run reduce crime and collisions. Those “tools,” Parker said, include the department’s already-existing traffic unit, on-hand crime analysts and dedicated patrol days.

Within the last 30 days, police responded to 12 property crime incidents in a 1-mile radius surrounding the intersection between Cherry and Celanese Roads — which covers U.S. 21, the area near Interstate 77 and Riverview and Celriver Roads, according to Rock Hill Police data. Last year, they responded to more than 250 crimes just within that 1-mile area.

The department categorizes property crimes as: larceny, burglary, arson, motor vehicle theft, pocket picking, purse snatching, theft from cars, theft from coin-operated machines and theft from buildings.

Last year, authorities investigated 34 violent crimes — which include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — in that same 1-mile reach, the data shows.

The crimes officials aim to curb aren’t day or nighttime specific, Parker said, stressing that police want the enforcement to be “sporadic.”

“We don’t want anybody to feel like, ‘oh, I can drive and have drugs’ or ‘I can drive recklessly’” at a certain time of day, he said. “We want to be there 24/7 sporadically...we want everyone to know that if you’re going to drive in this area...then you need to be aware that we are looking for you.”

People who still commit the crimes, traffic or otherwise, will suffer whatever consequences that fit the offense, Parker said.

“It could be that somebody is following too close and the officer might pull them over and warn them,” he said. “It could be that it’s an egregious offense-- somebody’s driving very recklessly and cutting people off, that might be a citation.”

State troopers and transport police will assist Rock Hill officers with enforcement on specific dates, starting Jan. 31. Other collaborative dates include Feb. 1 and 12.

Commuters can still expect Rock Hill officers to take to the streets with increased enforcement without any prior warning at least twice a week.

The new program doesn’t cost taxpayers, Parker said, adding that police officers won’t pull manpower from other units to help with increased traffic enforcement. The street crimes and patrol units will use DDACTS to augment work they do on routine patrols, along with COMPSTAT, which police use track crime patterns in certain neighborhoods.

“Any time you’re dealing with reducing traffic collisions, we see that as an opportunity to save lives,” said Capt. Kenneth Phelps with the Highway Patrol. The initiative “is without a doubt a worthwhile venture for all law enforcement. In a time of low staffing...it’s time for the police to work smarter, not harder.”

“We can not predict the next traffic fatality or the next home invasion, but we can use historical data and place our resources at the most probable locations,” Phelps added.

“You’re going to get pulled over in these areas,” Parker said, “so you need to watch what you’re doing.”

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