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Norwalk Police step up speed enforcement

A Norwalk Police cruiser.

NORWALK, Conn. — You might think motorists are hoping to make up time lost to the pandemic: traffic tickets, which nosedived in 2020, are climbing.

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik attributes the hike in nabbed speeders to “dramatically increased” enforcement, which he said started with the creation of the traffic unit a few years ago and then “the expansion of the traffic unit in the past couple of years.”

There was no traffic unit a decade ago. Prior to its creation, officers would try to respond to residents’ complaints during their regular patrols, Kulhawik told the Common Council Health and Public Safety Committee. That was “tough to do,” he said, because calls would come in that required officers to leave to respond.

Statistics provided by the department show that, indeed, speeding enforcement has resulted in more citations.

In January, Norwalk Police Deputy Chief James Walsh said enforcement had “definitely picked back up,” given a change of traffic unit command. There had been 317 infractions issued compared to 79 in December.

Last week, Walsh said, “there has been an increase in enforcement and activity in the issuing of citations and written warnings in 2021. Last year in 2020 self-initiated activity was impacted by the COVID pandemic as guidelines were issued to limit contact at the outbreak of the pandemic. The impact lasted several months as it did in several other departments throughout Connecticut. In general motor vehicle enforcement activity and car stops was down considerably due to the pandemic. Also towards the end of the year there was less public traffic usage due to working from home, and home schooling.”

Given the decline in 2020, NancyOnNorwalk asked for 2019 statistics, in addition for those comparing the first four months of the year with the year prior. The below citation count includes infractions and written warnings, issued by all Norwalk Police not just the traffic unit, according to Walsh:

  • 771 in April 2021
  • 29 in April 2020
  • 646 in April 2019

 

  • 503 in March 2021
  • 135 in March 2020
  • 582 in March 2019

 

  • 337 in February 2021
  • 297 in February 2020
  • 365 in February 2019

 

  • 317 in January 2021
  • 215 in January 2020
  • 469 in January 2019

 

The May data was not yet available.

In February, March and April, many people were ticketed for running stop signs – that citation was top of the list. So let’s look at that:

  • April 2021: 295 citations for failure to obey stop sign
  • April 2020: 0 citations for failure to obey stop sign
  • April 2019: 18 citations for “stop sign/other”

 

  • March 2021: 162 citations for failure to obey stop sign
  • March 2020: 10 citations for failure to obey stop sign
  • March 2019: 46 citations for “stop sign/other”

 

  • February 2021: 72 citations for failure to obey stop sign
  • February 2020: 16 citations for failure to obey stop sign
  • February 2019: 14 citations for “stop sign/other”

 

  • January 2021: 66 citations for failure to obey stop sign
  • January 2020: 18 citations for failure to obey stop sign
  • January 2019: 18 citations for “stop sign/other”

 

The citation for “traveling unreasonably fast” was top of the list in January and second in March and February. There are also citations issued for “speeding infraction-cars only.” Still another citation can be issued for “traveling too fast for the conditions.”

Walsh explained:

“The statute for Traveling Unreasonably fast is 14-218a. The law states ‘Any speed in excess of such limits, other than speeding as provided for in section 14-219, shall be prima facie evidence that such speed is not reasonable, but the fact that the speed of a vehicle is lower than such limits shall not relieve the operator from the duty to decrease speed when a special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.’ So in simpler terms if you’re traveling too fast for road conditions (i.e. snow or ice) and crash you could be cited for 14-218A, or travel in a speed in excess of the posted speed limit.

“14-219a Speeding -the statute defines in greater detail getting caught traveling in excess of the posted speed limit (greater than 55) on a regular road or 65 upon any limited access highway such as I-95.

“So in Norwalk more cars are cited for 14-218a due to the fact when violators get caught they are traveling under 55 but still in excess of the posted speed limit (i.e. 48 in a posted 35), if a person is caught traveling 56 in a 35 they violate 14-219.

 

The 2019 stats provided by Walsh don’t differentiate; traveling “too fast” is listed, nothing else. He also provided stats for 2020 and 2021 in that format.

With the citations categorized that way, speeding enforcement is definitely up. A comparison:

  • April 2021: 30 citations for traveling “too fast” (26 citations for traveling unreasonably fast)
  • April 2020: 0 citations for traveling “too fast”
  • April 2019: 21 citations for traveling “too fast”

 

  • March 2021: 109 citations for traveling “too fast” (97 citations for traveling unreasonably fast)
  • March 2020: 18 citations for traveling “too fast” (8 citations for traveling unreasonably fast)
  • March 2019: 39 citations for traveling “too fast”

 

  • February 2021: 93 citations for traveling “too fast” (65 citations for traveling unreasonably fast)
  • February 2020: 49 citations for traveling “too fast” (10 citations for traveling unreasonably fast)
  • February 2019: 71 citations for traveling “too fast”

 

  • January 2021: 79 citations for traveling “too fast” (68 citations for traveling unreasonably fast; one each for traveling too fast for the conditions and “speeding infraction-cars only.”
  • January 2020: 48 citations for traveling “too fast” (21 citations for traveling unreasonably fast)
  • January 2019: 67 citations for traveling “too fast”

 

  • 2020: 297 citations for traveling “too fast”
  • 2019: 653 citations for traveling “too fast”
  • 2018: 659 citations for traveling “too fast”

 

In the first four months of 2021, a third of the year, there were 311 citations for traveling “too fast.”

Kulhawik, speaking to the Common Council Health and Public Safety Committee, said that before there was a traffic unit, officers would try to respond to resident complaints by setting up on their regular patrols, “tough to do” because calls would come in and they would have to leave to respond.

“There’s a few streets that anytime we do radar, you’re going to get violations because it’s a constant problem,” he said. But if residents are complaining about other locations, the traffic unit will “put up a box to track vehicle speeds and the number of vehicles and the hours and then get that data for a week or so. And then we’ll analyze it and see if there is a problem.”

If the data supports the allegation of speeding – or people running stop signs, whatever the complaint might concern – “they’ll assign officers to do selective enforcement, usually the motorcycle officers to do traffic enforcement there,” he said.

“But speeding and traffic is, has always been and continues to be the number one complaint,” he said. “And sometimes it’s like I said, the residents believe it’s speeding, but it’s not once we do the data.”

But some roads are usually a problem. William Street since it’s been repaved is “pretty much anytime” and East Rocks “from time to time,” he said. “I mean, there’s a number of places where the officers go on a regular basis.”

6 comments

Paul June 1, 2021 at 8:25 am

If residents think or feel traffic is speeding, they should go to the city and request the speed limit to be reduced.

David Muccigrosso June 1, 2021 at 8:35 am

Who does this actually help? I’m not aware of any speeding epidemic, except for the moron racers on Route 7.

Maybe it would help if you guys would actually enforce noise violations on Washington. I’m not talking about the clubs, I’m talking about all the morons who rev their engines to stroke their egos.

Or hey, what if you actually cracked down on the skateboarders, like that homeless one who loiters around for hours on end? And hey, just to add a crazy idea to the rest of my wild-eyed radicalism, what if you built a skate park in… gasp… the actual park (!)… like maybe Veteran’s Park… so they wouldn’t have to grind up storefronts in order to have their fun.

Man, it’s almost like there are way better things we could be doing in this relatively peaceful and crime-free town, than spending money on Orwellian police patrols. If only we focused on what we can build, instead of who we can cite and arrest.

milbank June 1, 2021 at 10:10 am

The speeding traffic in Norwalk is out of hand. Norwalk could “kill two birds with one stone” if they started cracking down on it. They’d make the streets safer and bring in revenue that might keep our taxes from going up as much as it does every year.

John C Miller Jr June 2, 2021 at 3:32 pm

@David M.: I don’t know how big the speeding problem actually is in Norwalk but one thing that I see a lot of is people running red lights. That can be very dangerous and needs to be enforced. I don’t believe Orwell would enjoy being t-boned.

Mitch Adis June 2, 2021 at 8:38 pm

How about solving the traffic light problem around the City? Many of the traffic lights are out of sync. Others turn red for no reason. I’ve sat at a red light when there are no other cars anywhere near the intersection. When drivers get stuck going red light to red light, it encourages speeding and running a “yellow” light. Existing technology can solve these problems over night.

Peter Franz June 4, 2021 at 10:49 am

When you drive the speed limit on local roads, you get angry angry people on your bumper. Norwalk, Wilton, Westport… it doesn’t matter. People are too self-important, and apparently bad time managers as they’re always running late. Once again, police are being tasked with solving a societal problem.

Traffic cameras. They work.

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