Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Project Drive haul: 24,744 fines

If each ticket is worth $200, that's $5M for city, province

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A special police traffic-enforcement project -- conceived last year by city hall to earn more ticket revenue -- saw 24,744 tickets issued during its seven-month period, police statistics say.

Thirty people were arrested on outstanding warrants, 12 drivers were charged with Criminal Code offences, four impaired drivers were taken off the road and three people were charged with drug possession.

Police released the results of Project Drive Friday after criticism the enforcement blitz racked up $860,000 in overtime and turned police officers into tax collectors.

Traffic unit Staff Sgt. Rob Riffel said more than half of the tickets issued during Project Drive were for speeding violations.

"Just under 15,000 of them were for speeding and just under 4,000 of them were for disobeying a traffic-control device like a stop sign and a red light," Riffel said. "This was safety-driven, in our mind. Anytime I can get more officers out on the road doing traffic enforcement, I think it's a win for everybody."

It won't be known how much revenue was generated by Project Drive until each ticket goes through the fine-payment and court system.

However, if the average traffic fine is $200, Project Drive will earn about $5 million before overtime costs are subtracted. The city will see one-third of the final revenue, with the rest going to the provincial government and court costs.

Riffel also said Project Drive was not about issuing as many tickets as possible -- officers did not have quotas -- but how many hours or extra shifts police devoted to the project, which started in May and ended in November.

"The target wasn't the number of tags, it was a target of how many days and how many hours we wanted to put into this," he said. "Basically, it was 120 days of 10-hour deployments of 10 officers. It was basically adding another traffic shift on those days."

Non-central traffic officers who volunteered to work overtime on traffic duty worked an extra 67 10-hour shifts. The rest of the extra 120 shifts were worked by officers from the traffic unit. Overtime pay for an officer is time-and-a-half for a 10-hour shift.

Officers who worked overtime doing traffic duty came mostly from the traffic unit and frontline general patrol units from around the city.

"There were some members from the street-crime unit and from our tactical unit," Riffel said. "This is all people off duty. This is all voluntary overtime. These were people who were off-duty who had the training to do traffic enforcement. You need the skill set to do this."

The initial results of Project Drive were obtained by traffic activist Todd Dube of WiseUp Winnipeg through a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request. The documents reveal the total regular overtime cost for Project Drive from June to November last year was $859,522.56.

Dube also said Project Drive was a symptom of a traffic-enforcement program that unfairly hands out tickets at certain locations where there is improper signage or where the posted speed limit should be higher.

Riffel said Project Drive was designed to be cost-neutral: The cost of extra traffic enforcement and overtime would not come out of the police budget, but from fine revenue.

"It would not cost the city or the service any money, but we were going to get that extra enforcement out there," he said. "We understand there's a gap in our traffic enforcement and we came up with a way to augment that."

Riffel also said he was not in a position to comment on who ordered Project Drive, other than it came from the police executive.

Breakdown of tickets

Speeding: 14,462

Disobey traffic-control device: 3,915

Seatbelt inoperable: 5

Driver fails to wear seatbelt: 1,186

Passenger fails to wear seatbelt: 128

Allow passenger under 18 to not wear seatbelt: 15

Driver permit child improperly restrained: 10

Use of cellphone: 488

Other charges (equipment, turn signals, illegal turns): 4,585

Total of all Project Drive tickets: 24,744

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2013 0

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