Beaufort News

Port Royal recognized for traffic safety

Carol Poore had an unusual reaction when her husband got a ticket for not wearing a seat belt two months ago -- joy.

"They gave my husband a ticket, and he's worn it ever since," she said. "It was only, like, $25, but I would have paid $200."

Poore said such tickets and the Port Royal Police Department's constant presence on roadways explain why the town was honored this week as a Traffic Safe Community of the Year by AAA Carolinas' Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Port Royal was named one of the top 15 communities in the state for the third consecutive year.

The selections are based on crash statistics, the ratio of officers per residents, presence of a police traffic unit and programs for traffic safety.

The 15 cities recognized annually are sorted by size, and one grand prize winner is picked from each category. Hanahan was the grand winner in Port Royal's division.

Driving Port Royal's success in traffic safety is the Neighborhood Enhancement Team, said Lt. John Griffith, who heads the traffic safety division. What started as a mostly volunteer program in 2004 has grown, with the help of a grant, to three full-time officers.

The original objective was to help residents avoid problems by having officers identify code violations as simple as piles of garbage or grass that had grown too high. In some cases, officers would even help residents clean up the problem, Griffith said.

The team's mission has expanded with technology. The team takes information from traffic stops and crashes and cross-references it with criminal activity to identify possible suspects or crimes. They also map incidents to identify where and when certain crimes occurred and how they may be related and prevented. All of this information is available to officers in their patrol cars.

The approach is working, Griffith said.

Just last week, a burglary suspect was identified after a police officer stopped him because his taillight was out.

Mostly, the team writes warnings. Such visibility can make a difference, Griffith said, citing a drop in alcohol-related incidents as an example. From January to October last year, five accidents involved alcohol. During the same period this year, that number fell to two.

"With people knowing we're out there, I'm sure they're less likely to be out there drinking and driving," he said.

Not all the statistics went down, though. Injuries as a result of accidents went from 60 to 66 during the same periods.

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