Are traffic crashes and crime related? Well, it turns out they often are. Find an area of town that has an abundance of crashes and traffic violations and chances are pretty good that the crime rate is high there too.
So, law enforcement agencies have found that providing a high police presence in areas with both problems often lowers both crash and crime rates, sometimes dramatically.
This philosophy of fighting those problem areas is called Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety, or DDACTS as it’s known among law enforcement agencies.
“This philosophy of policing is really catching on with excellent results,” says Associate Research Scientist Troy Walden. He is overseeing a three-year Center for Transportation Safety (CTS) traffic safety grant awarded by TxDOT with funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “We’ve been conducting workshops for law enforcement agencies — teaching them how to find ‘hot spots,’ which are areas where crime and crashes are highest. The technique provides a high-profile police presence that is supported through high visibility traffic enforcement efforts.”
In the latest class, six south Texas police agencies attended the DDACTS workshop in February — Brownsville, Edinburg, Laredo, Mission, Harlingen and Pharr Police Departments.
For most agencies, DDACTS is a radically different approach to crime fighting. Criminal activity is usually the focus of most law enforcement agencies, however with DDACTS, traffic law enforcement is emphasized to address the hot spot locations.
“It’s not unusual for agencies to see a 30 to 40 percent drop in crime and crashes in any given community that utilizes this process,” Walden explains. “That’s a 30 to 40 percent reduction across the board, with some communities experiencing a 70 percent reduction.”
Walden says that cities often experience reductions in violent crimes, including homicide, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. At the same time, there are often fewer traffic fatalities and injury crashes, while the number of arrests increases.
“This is not ‘the flavor of the month’ kind of approach,” he says. “This is a long-term, data driven policing philosophy that departments continue to work on. Sometimes your high crime and crash areas will be migratory, so it’s important to reassess and evaluate crime and crash data to pinpoint those areas.”