Briefing just the tickets
by C.A. Gilman
Ojai's Police Chief, Capt. Gary Pentis, presented an overview
of traffic enforcement statistics from the Ventura County Sheriff's
Department at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
Pentis said, "In the year 2000 statistics for safety in
our community, we were ranked with 87 other cities of our size
in California. We were No. 8 of the 88 cities on speed-related
accidents that cause injury in the cities of our size. We were
ninth for pedestrians that are 65 or older that are injured on
our roadways, and 11th for children that are under the age of
15 that are injured by a motor vehicle. As for pedestrians overall
we ranked fifth out of 88 cities of population of our size in
the state of California.
"That is not where we should be. So within the past two
years, we have increased training and direction of our deputies
who work the city cars, and support for motor officers."
City Council Member David Bury asked, "Why we have had such
high statistics to rate No. 5?"
Pentis said, "Historically, traffic enforcement has not
been a priority in this community. It brought about too many
complaints. There is a direct correlation between traffic enforcement
and accident rates."
From Jan. 1 through Sept. 19, 2002, the Sheriff's Office issued
872 traffic citations in the city of Ojai. 447 of those citations
went to non-city residents; 425 to city residents.
From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2002, 292 traffic accidents were reported;
111 injuries; 143 non-injuries; and 38 hit and run. 275 of these
accidents took place during the day that coincided with work
commutes and school pick-up and drop-off, while 35 took place
Insurance agents have stated, Pentis said, that 40 percent of
traffic accidents are not reported to the police. "When
we started to ramp up our enforcement to the last couple of months,
with the citation base people are slower and are more positively
aware," Pentis said.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 19 of this year, the police issued 150
citations in the area of Nordhoff High School. During that same
period they reported issuing 221 citations for stop sign violations
- nearly a quarter of all citations issued in Ojai. Additionally,
114 citations were issued to children under 18 for not wearing
a safety helmet when riding their bicycles. Pentis reported that
56 of these citations occurred in the first two months, and that
once the cyclists understood the police were serious, they started
to comply. Police Resource Officer Kim Larson gave away 230 bicycle
helmets this year.
The primary reasons for the accidents were not yielding to other
cars or pedestrians, making unsafe turns, speeding, and not stopping
at stop signs.
The data reported that 45 percent, or 396, of those people cited
for hazardous driving were between 26 and 59; and 35 percent,
or 301 drivers, were under 25. Those over 60 (61 drivers) accounted
for only 7 percent of those cited for hazardous driving. 114
youth not wearing bike helmets were 14 percent of the total figure.
Pentis reported that 56 of these helmet citations occurred in
the first two months, and that once the cyclists understood the
police were serious, they started to comply. Police Resource
Officer Kim Larson gave away 230 bicycle helmets this year.
Mayor Steve Olsen said, "Any time you do have enforcement,
you will have a complaint. What is the process for those who
have a complaint?"
Pentis said, "It depends on what the complaint is. Sometime
the complaint is from misunderstanding and miscommunication and
all it takes is a phone call. Then there is a situation when
the person feels he was mistreated, and that complaint will go
to a supervisor to investigate. Then the person is interviewed,
the deputy is interviewed, the location is looked at, and any
witnesses will be interviewed. There will then be a finding one
way or the other ... Then I'll get back to the complaining party
and tell them what the resolution was barring some personnel
privacy issues. We don't divulge what the discipline is but
I can inform them to a degree that they will be satisfied.
"When there are complaints that I don't think should be
handled in house because of potential controversy, I'll send
it to Ventura to the Internal Affairs Division which will do
a similar investigation but with someone from the outside. Then
they will contact the citizen with those results and resolutions.
"If they are not happy with that, then they can come to
the City Council - you are my boss - and you can choose to call
me in. I'm happy to say we get more compliments than complaints.
"We will take complaints over the phone or citizens can
come in and fill out a complaint assistance form. We will take
complaints from anyone at any time."
There will be a town meeting in October for youth, parents, and
residents with the Youth Commission, the City, and the Sheriff's
Department to discuss ways to ameliorate citations.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
Back to the news