St. John sheriff takes on traffic

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 20, 2006


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — The St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office is cracking down on many areas involving traffic safety, one of the most important being speeding.

Lt. Troy Cassioppi, traffic division commander, said they have identified the problems and are focused on fixing them.

&#8220We realize we have a problem with aggressive driving and speeding in St. John Parish,” Cassioppi said. &#8220So we got with a lot of state agencies and secured some funding. We’re going to beef up enforcement.”

After Hurricane Katrina, St. John Parish saw a massive influx of people. Along with the people came an increase in traffic crashes and violations.

&#8220We started L.A.C.E in October,” he said. &#8220It stands for Local Assisted Compensated Enforcement. It’s a campaign through the District Attorney’s Office, strictly for speeding enforcement.”

Cassioppi said since L.A.C.E began he and fellow officers write about 25-30 tickets a shift for people traveling more than 85 mph.

&#8220This has just gotten out of control,” he said. &#8220There have been times where people were clocked going 100 mph and more.”

Cassioppi said officers are putting in 300 to 400 hours worth of overtime in a month in the effort to decrease the amount of crashes and violations.

&#8220The crash rate has at least doubled, since Katrina,” he said. &#8220Before Katrina we would see maybe 120 to 130 crashes a month, now it’s 230 to 300 crashed per month. Even though this ranges from vender-benders to fatalities, there has been an increase across the board.”

Grants have also been secured a year at a time for occupant protection, which is seat belts and child restraints, DWI’s, speeding, a separate grant from L.A.C.E. and for railroad safety.

&#8220The original grant was for $10,000,” he said. &#8220Now that we added the railroad safety, it increased to $22,310, which is strictly used for paying the officers’ overtime. We started this in September and it will run through October. We will be out there, and we will be issuing citations.”

In other efforts, the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office will be doing a check point every month, in conjunction with the Louisiana State Police, and will participate in the LA Highway Safety Commission’s &#8220100 Days of Summer Campaign,” which is focused on speeding in the months of June, July and August.

Visibility of the Sheriff’s Office will not only be near the interstates and state highways, but in the subdivisions of St. John Parish as well.

&#8220We have stepped up enforcement in subdivisions,” he said.

&#8220The traffic division is now up to 18 guys, compared to the 12 we had before. People need to be aware that our officers will be out there focusing on speeding, running stop-signs, school zones and work zones. We will also be doing spot checks.”

Cassioppi said on Monday officers conducted a spot check on Belle Terre by KFC, and issued more than 25 speeding citations in one hour.

&#8220Some people believe in a myth about a cushion,” he said. &#8220They think you are allowed a cushion, that you can drive 50 mph in a 40 mph zone. That is not true. If the speed limit is 40, then go 40. The speed limit is the speed limit.”

Cassioppi said there have been many complaints about the lane change at the intersection of Hemlock and Airline, but that signs are visible and drivers must pay attention.

&#8220There are advance signs about 100 yards before the intersection and it’s marked,”? he said. &#8220We met with the Department of Transportation and they recommended changing the flow of traffic. It will just take time for people to get used to the change. Luckily, there have been no crashes in that particular area.”

Another area of focus for the Sheriff’s Office is handicap and fire-zone parking, and illegal tint.

&#8220We have two officers strictly devoted to going from business to business checking out the handicap spaces,”? he said. &#8220They are issuing about 12-15 tickets a day. There is no tolerance for this. You must have two forms of ID available if you are parked in a handicapped space.”

For those who have tinted windows, the legal percentage is 40 percent and up. If the tint on the windows is between 0 percent and 40 percent it is considered too dark, illegal and a citation will be issued, according to Cassioppi.

Cassioppi provided the following minimum fines for violators:

€ No seatbelt: $25

€ No childrestraint: $50

€ No insurance: $208

€ Fire lane parking: $208

€ Railroad violation: $208

€ Illegal tint: $148

€ Handicapped parking: $483

€ Speeding 1 to 25 mph over: $163

€ Speeding 25 mph over, must appear in court

&#8220As long as you abide by the laws, you will have no problems,” he said. &#8220We are not trying to put people in jail. We’re just trying to stop the problem.”