Grant for speed traps protects school zones

By Colleen Vest

Rose Hudson, a crossing guard at Bottenfield Elementary School, 1801 S. Prospect Ave., in Champaign, said helping children across the street can be dangerous when drivers are distracted or do not follow the speed limit.

“We aren’t at a corner, so we cross kids at four lanes of traffic,” Hudson said. “Speeding is a big issue because we know it’s a school zone but people are in a rush and don’t follow it.”

The Champaign Police Department resumed carrying out the speed enforcement grant, issued by the Illinois Department of Transportation, on April 1 in an attempt to curb speeding.

“The grant puts more uniform squad cars out and is tied to areas with more accidents,” said Champaign Police Sgt. Dave Griffet. “It’s an added resource in a tough economic time because it’s getting harder and harder to get money to make the community safe.”

This is the third year that the grant has been issued to the police department. The grant is for $34,000 to pay for personnel and reimbursement for time and mileage, Griffet said.

“The grant allows us to fill two extra slots a day for seven days a week in addition to the regular police out,” Griffet said.

The grant is for six months worth of money to be used within 12 months of when it was issued. The grant was issued in September 2008 and was in effect during November. It will also be in effect for April, May, June, August and September.

“We make sure to enforce it during August and September because that’s when school is getting ready to start again,” Griffet said. “We don’t use the grant in December and January mainly because the bad weather is not conducive to catch speeders.”

The extra officers could be at any part of the four streets the grant covers: University Avenue between Mattis Avenue and Wright Street; Church Street between State Street and Mattis Avenue; Windsor Road between Neil Street and Staley Road; and Neil Street between Windsor Road and Interstate 74, Griffet said.

“Unless it costs money, people don’t pay attention, so it’s good that the officers are out writing tickets,” Hudson said. “Parents who live close are afraid to walk their kids to school, so I love that we have grant money to enforce school zones and other areas.”

Bradley Avenue, one of the areas covered by the speed enforcement grant last year, saw a significant decrease in speeders, Griffet said.

“A majority of the tickets issued are for 10 miles or more over the limit,” Griffet said.

Marci Dodds, Champaign City Councilwoman for District 4, said constituents bring up speeding problems and safety regularly.

“Speeding and possibly lowering the speed limit has been brought up to the council before, but lowering it just isn’t an option right now,” Dodds said. “The grant helps pay for speed enforcement and takes the pressure off the city to pay for it.”