Stats-based policing approach helps Port Royal earn safe traffic community award from AAA Carolinas

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comNovember 25, 2013 

A Port Royal's statistics-based law enforcement model, which targets high accident and crime areas, helped the town win a safety award again this year.

For the fifth year in a row, the town has been named one of South Carolina's Traffic Safe Communities by AAA Carolinas.

Port Royal was one of 12 towns in the state to earn the award, which uses crash statistics, the ratio of police officers to residents and the presence of a traffic-safety program to select the winners, according to a news release from AAA Carolinas.

Much of the traffic safety work in the town falls to the Port Royal Police Department's three-person Neighborhood Enhancement Team, led by Sgt. Scott O'Neal. The team uses a Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety, or DDACTS, to target areas where a high number of traffic accidents or crimes occur.

"We map out intersections where accidents and crimes are happening in the program to find correlations on where they are occurring," O'Neal said. "We then increase our presence in the area, saturating it and looking for crimes and violations."

O'Neal said the team started about two years ago, after the department received a grant to fund it. In addition to relying on statistics to help pinpoint hotspots, the team also maintains a large community presence and relationships with the public.

The town's relatively small police force also helps it in AAA's selection process. Port Royal's population is only slightly smaller than neighboring Beaufort's, but Beaufort's police force is more than twice Port Royal's size, Deputy Chief Ron Wekenmann said. Port Royal has 21 officers, compared with about 50 for Beaufort, Wekenmann said.

There's another reason, too: Drivers are just being safer around Port Royal, Wekenmann said.

"People are finally getting used to the new traffic patterns around here," he said. "We had some changes with new traffic lights and medians over the past couple years, but it looks like people are adjusted."

The towns of Mount Pleasant, Newberry and Iva won three grand prize awards from AAA Carolinas. Newberry won in the 10,000-to-30,000-population category, which includes Port Royal, for the seventh time since 2005, the release said.

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