CHP officers were on heightened alert this past Thanksgiving weekend as
part of the national "Click It or Ticket" seat belt campaign.
According to department statistics,
33 people died in auto collisions during the 2013 Thanksgiving weekend. That number was
down from 44 the previous year, and officials were determined to see another
decline. This year, over 3.5 million southern Californians travelled at
least 50 miles away from home; Las Vegas was the most popular destination.
The four-day weekend is one of the most heavily traveled periods of the year.
Strategic (or Sustained) Traffic Enforcement Programs are periods of intense
law-enforcement activity designed to discourage a specific driving habit,
such as driving without a seat belt, speeding or DUI. The theory is that
motorists are naturally inclined to ignore traffic laws, but their fear
of punishment outweighs their natural lawlessness.
plan is a fairly typical example of a STEP campaign. Local law enforcement
agencies are on heightened alert on six major holiday weekends, and six
other weekends of the department's choice. The state pays for officer
overtime, advertisement expenses, additional officer training and any
other costs associated with the STEP enforcement.
The main problem with these campaigns is that they feed the beast. These
programs can be rather expensive in overtime alone, and when the officers
go to court for a traffic ticket, they are generally on overtime again.
That creates pressure for officers in Lamont and Shafter to write more
speeding tickets. Furthermore, an officer may be under pressure to write
citations for incidents when a warning would be more appropriate, which
undermines the relationship between peace officers and the people they
are supposed to protect.