The Police Department will be honored in
Westbrook today for taking third place in the
2006 Connecticut Law Enforcement Challenge.
The annual competition, co-sponsored by the
state Department of Transportation and the
Connecticut Chiefs of Police Association,
recognizes and rewards the best overall traffic
"I'm very proud," said Sgt. Joshua Zabin.
"I'm very proud of the fact our department is
out there conducting traffic enforcement and
over the last three years, we've shown a decline
in accidents, have increased the number of DUI
checkpoints and have a better relationship with
the community, partly because of our educational
programs in the high schools and colleges."
Although Fairfield didn't earn the top spot
against fellow departments exceeding 100-plus
members, it still has the opportunity going into
today's awards luncheon of winning a Harley
Davidson police motorcycle. Chiefs from the
different departments that entered the
competition will be given keys to the motorcycle
but only one will start the engine.
Police Chief David Peck, a motorcycle
enthusiast, said the department's winning the
motorcycle "would be a little bonus" on top of
being recognized for its law enforcement
efforts. He added that the motorcycle would
allow the department to expand enforcement by
using an additional motorcycle officer. The
number of trained motorcycle officers exceeds
the number of police motorcycles four -- the
"There are several certified motorcycle
officers we could assign," said Peck, if the
department won the bike.
The Connecticut Law Enforcement Challenge,
according to CLEC literature, is an innovative
program that provides an avenue to stimulate
traffic law enforcement in any police or sheriff
agency. The program targets three major traffic
safety priorities: occupant protection, impaired
driving and speeding.
Zabin said nearly 30 law enforcement agencies
competed in the CLEC and noted that program
judges look at "the quality of what you're
doing, are you going out in the community and
making a difference, and creativity, as far as
Zabin added that the judges also take into
account the presentation of traffic safety books
the departments submit. Part of the application
process asks for information regarding
enforcement activity during any three months of
2006. In this section, Fairfield officials said
there were 275 citations for safety belt
violation, 19 for child passenger safety
violations and 420 for speeding and 51 arrests
for impaired driving. There were also four
driving under the influence special enforcement
efforts throughout 2006, two of which were
checkpoints, according to the application.
The traffic safety book the Fairfield Police
Department submitted for the competition also
lists a number of efforts to combat excessive
speed, including laser and radar enforcement and
"Operation Safe Driver" and "Living Streets
Initiative." Operation Safe Driver involves
utilization of the Mobile Command Unit in areas
of town where there is a heavy flow of traffic,
according to Capt. Robert Comers. An officer in
an unmarked car up the road will notify officers
around the command center of drivers committing
various violations, whether it's speeding,
driving without a seat belt, talking on a cell
phone while driving or even not having a front
marker plate. When the violator reaches the area
of the command center, they get flagged down to
Comers said the stops "bring an awareness to
the public that the police are out there
enforcing motor vehicle laws."
"You'll drive more carefully than if you
never saw a police officer," said Comers. "When
we're out there it's quite a presence and that's
what we want. We want people to know we are out
there enforcing the law."
The Living Streets Initiative educates the
public that pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle
traffic must share roadways where people live.
If a certain neighborhood is found to be having
serious problems with traffic, "we will set up
in the roadway and hand out fliers to passing
motorists reminding them of the posted speed
limits and warning them to slow down.
"Our ultimate goal, with all of these
different programs, is to change the behavior of
the motorist," said Zabin. Initiatives like
Living Streets have made a difference. During
October 2006, after neighbor complaints of
commercial truck traffic violations, officers
conducted a successful campaign on Route 136.
The officers handed out fliers to passing truck
drivers reminding them it was a "no thru truck"
road. During the weeks following the campaign,
officers followed up with enforcement and found
truck traffic had been reduced significantly.
The Fairfield department, like those in many
towns, also used the portable speed readers,
which flash amber colored letters that display
an oncoming motorist's travels speed. The
numbers flash red when the oncoming motorist
exceeds the posted speed limit. DUI saturation
patrols are also highlighted in the book
submitted for the CLEC. DUI saturation patrols
are employed 52 weeks a year, every Thursday,
Friday and Saturday evening in an effort to
reduce the number of impaired driving injuries
and fatalities. The goal is accomplished through
both high visibility patrolling and focused
enforcement in certain areas of town. In 2006,
468 individual DUI patrols were deployed under
Checkpoints, said Zabin, have resulted in not
only drunken-driving arrests but also arrests
for drug possession.
Operation Safe Driver has not only been
responsible for citations for various motor
vehicle violations but also illegal immigrant
Zabin, who attended a week-long conference in
Naples, Fla., in June related to alcohol and
drug-impaired driving, came away with better
ideas on how to increase DUI checkpoint safety,
better ways to monitor local liquor
establishments, as well as how to create a
database for "place of last drink," which Zabin
said may help the police plot where "some of the
bars are over-serving."
Today's awards ceremony and luncheon, which
is called the Law Enforcement Summit, will take
place at Water's Edge Resort and Spa, according
"It's always rewarding to have your work
recognized," he said.
Zabin said traffic enforcement training in
2007 has already exceeded what took place in
2006 and "we hope to do more in the future," he
He added, "We want people to realize we're
serious. I want to create a buzz around
Fairfield County that the Fairfield police take
traffic enforcement very seriously, and if you
break the law, you're going to get caught."
Zabin said the highest number of citizen
complaints have to do with speeding and reckless
driving. He added that accidents -- whether
single car, car on car, or car hitting a
pedestrian -- can result in long-term
repercussions. "Injuries suffered in a motor
vehicle accident can stay with people for many
years," said Zabin.
The organizers of the annual CLEC believe the
competition, among other things, is a friendly
way for departments to increase their attention
to traffic safety, as well as creates incentive
for continuing traffic safety activities.
Peck said the third place finish in the
statewide competition speaks volumes about the
"Very often, the Police Department is
criticized for not doing enough traffic
enforcement," said Peck. "I think this proves we
are trying very hard to do the best that we can,
and in addition to the initiatives that we
already have in place, we are always looking for
new and innovative ways to deal with traffic
issues and traffic enforcement."