DCSIMG
Hillsborough County Sheriff's
Office
Hillsborough County, Florida

Sheriff's Traffic Operations Plan

This is a image that shows the location of Hillsborough, Florida as it would appear on a map.


Distinguishing Features

County sheriffs are responsible for providing the full range of law enforcement services, which can place limits on an organization's capacity to perform well in all aspects of its mission. As a result, county sheriffs often assign a relatively low priority to traffic enforcement to preserve resources, and occasionally, to avoid complaints. However, many sheriffs consider traffic safety to be an important responsibility and are willing to devote the effort necessary to address the issues. The Sheriff's Traffic Operations Plan, developed by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, includes impaired driving enforcement and education efforts that rival the programs of many state agencies for which traffic safety is the primary mission.

Setting

Image of downtown Hillsborough.

Hillsborough County, located midway along the sunny west coast of Florida, encompasses 1,048 square miles of land and 24 square miles of inland waterways. The unincorporated portion of the county consists of 931 square miles, or more than 86 percent of the total area. The county is home to 1.1 million people, of which more than 700,000 reside in the unincorporated area and are served by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. The City of Tampa is the county seat, the largest of the three cities in Hillsborough County, and the third most populous city in Florida, with 321,490 residents. Tampa is located approximately 200 miles northwest of Miami, 180 miles southwest of Jacksonville, and 20 miles northeast of St. Petersburg, the oldest continuously occupied community in the United States. Plant City, with a population of 32,000, is located in the northeastern corner of Hillsborough County and Temple Terrace, with a population of 22,000, is a suburb of Tampa. Plant City derives its name from a founder rather than the surrounding agricultural industry, but Temple Terrace is named for the variety of orange that was cultivated there in what was, until the hard freeze of 1928, the largest orange grove in the world.

Image of cruise ship in Hillsborough.

Agriculture still plays a large role in Hillsborough County (e.g., 75 percent of the Nation's midwinter strawberry crop is produced in the vicinity of Plant City), but the diverse economic base also includes tourism, construction, finance, health care, government, technology, and the port of Tampa.

Sheriff's Traffic Operations Plan poster.

Background / Planning Process

More than 30,000 motor vehicle crashes occur in Hillsborough County each year, resulting in more than 19,000 people injured and an annual average of 200 fatalities. A 26 percent increase in traffic fatalities in 2002 prompted Sheriff's Office staff to question the effectiveness of the agency's traffic enforcement efforts and to form a committee to study the issues. The committee was chaired by a major and composed of two sergeants, five corporals, and an analyst from the agency's Criminal Investigations Division. The committee analyzed crash investigation reports and found that most of the injury and fatal crashes in the county were caused by aggressive or impaired drivers, and the toll in human suffering was made worse by the failure of many drivers and vehicle occupants to buckle up. The command staff of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office responded to the study committee's report by directing the development of an operations plan with the objective of reducing the incidence of serious crashes and in other ways improving traffic safety in the county. The study committee was expanded and established as a permanent activity with responsibility for implementing the new Sheriff's Traffic Operations Plan (STOP).

Planning Process

The Sheriff's Traffic Operations Plan includes the following components: Traffic Analysis, Procedures and Training, Enforcement Strategies, Public Awareness and Education, and Evaluation.

Traffic Analysis

Agency managers realized that a systematic, datadriven approach would increase the probability that their efforts would have an effect on the county's crash problems. A full-time traffic analyst was hired to work with state and local traffic engineers, deputies, and other law enforcement personnel within the county. The analyst uses advanced software tools and the Geographic Information System (GIS) to prepare a report each month that graphically illustrates the previous month's crash locations, day of week and time of day of the crashes, contributing factors, DUI activity, and emerging trends. The report is presented at the monthly meetings of the STOP committee and serves as the basis of discussion for the commanders, deputies, traffic analyst, and engineers in their efforts to identify issues and plan enforcement strategies.

Geographic Information Systems geodatabase using ESRI ArcView 9.0 and Intersection Magic.

Enforcement Strategies

Image of an officer that stopped a driver for a traffic violation.

 

The STOP committee selects the enforcement strategies and locations for the next month's countywide selective traffic enforcement events and special DUI enforcement activities. The traffic units of the four districts within the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office also conduct individual initiatives on a daily basis. In addition, Patrol Zone deputies are encouraged to conduct proactive traffic enforcement as time and duty permit.

 

Procedures and Training

The authors of the HCSO's plan recognize that an effective traffic safety program requires detailed procedures to guide the actions of competent and well-trained personnel. The agency prepared detailed operating procedures and then conducted training sessions for 930 deputies during 2003; the sessions included instruction concerning the procedures and the importance of traffic enforcement to achieving the agency's goal of reducing the incidence of crashes.

Assessment

The four district traffic supervisors and staff committee members assess program performance and officer productivity through daily, weekly, and monthly supervision, close monitoring of special enforcement events, and review of crash and arrest statistics. The members of the STOP Committee are encouraged to identify any deficiencies or particularly successful strategies observed during the month to discuss at the next STOP meeting. The program is guided by a policy of continuous evaluation and receptivity to new ideas.

Special Enforcement Methods

Night image of officers at a sobriety checkpoint.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has implemented several special enforcement activities as a consequence of the STOP Committee's analyses of crash and DUI data. The strategies include patrols that focus on speeding and aggressive driving, occupant restraint violations, and maintaining a high-visibility presence in the locations and corridors identified as disproportionately represented in the crash statistics. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office also conducts “Operation 3D,” a countywide, multiagency DUI enforcement program that includes frequent deployment of saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints at strategic locations that are identified by the analysis of crash and citation data. The sustained, high-visibility special operations are periodically supported by HCSO aircraft to facilitate surveillance and to increase public awareness and the deterrence effect of the enforcement programs.

TAMPA – Jesus Rosendo had an appointment with his probation officer Friday afternoon. So he drove himself to the Florida Department of Corrections office on Florida Avenue, despite not having a valid driver's license and driving a stolen car. Turns out Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office deputies were watching for Rosendo and other habitual traffic offenders who didn't seem to understand that revoked or suspended licenses make driving illegal. Especially to the probation office. Deputies from District 1 ran the undercover sting during office hours. Such stings take place every four to five weeks, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Albert Frost said. ``It's just a way to keep people who shouldn't be driving off the road,'' he said. Deputies arrested 11 people as they drove away. Rosendo, 25, of Tampa, told deputies the car was stolen, Frost said. Rosendo remained at Orient Road Jail on Friday, charged with grand theft auto and driving while his license is revoked. Bail was set at $4,000.

- Sherri Ackerman / Tampa Tribune

Frequency of Operations / Duration of Program

During 2003, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office conducted 24 multidistrict operations that focused on speeding and aggressive driving; 24 days of special enforcement in high-crash locations; four safety belt and child restraint mobilizations; 12 aircraft missions in support of traffic programs; 19 sobriety checkpoints; and, 48 patrols dedicated to DUI enforcement. In addition, the agency conducted 366 DUI awareness programs, 186 safety belt and child restraint programs, and 54 aggressive driving programs. More than 23,000 residents were reached by the agency's publicity campaigns.

Participation

The special enforcement activities of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office are conducted by the agency's deputies and with the participation of all other law enforcement agencies in the county. Twenty deputies usually are deployed to conduct the agency's special enforcement operations. During the year 2003, a total of 480 deputies were deployed for 24 multi-district, or county-wide, operations; 960 deputies were deployed for 48 DUI saturation patrols; and 380 deputies staffed the 19 sobriety checkpoints that were conducted. Each traffic operation is 8.4 hours in duration; saturation patrols are conducted for 8 hours; and, sobriety checkpoints usually operate for 5-hour periods; that is, deputies of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office conducted nearly 14,000 hours of special enforcement during 2003.

Image of marked sheriff vechicle.

Traffic enforcement operations typically deploy during the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or noon to 8 p.m., but change as needed based on crash data analysis. Sobriety checkpoints are conducted from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. DUI saturation patrols deploy from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The special traffic enforcement operations are conducted throughout the 900 square miles of unincorporated Hillsborough County; DUI operations also include the municipalities, and cover all 1,100 square miles of the county.

Public Awareness / Program Visibility

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office conducted five press conferences and issued 36 news media announcements during 2003 in support of special traffic enforcement operations; 1,500 posters and 4,100 brochures were distributed to businesses, neighborhood watch groups, schools, and civic organizations. Two public service announcements were produced (one each in support of DUI and safety belt enforcement) and broadcast during 2003 on HTV (Hillsborough TV, the local public access channel). It is unknown how frequently the PSAs were broadcast, but HTV reaches 950,000 viewers. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office received more than 20,000 inquiries via the agency Web site's Traffic Enforcement Page, which is used to post information about safety issues and scheduled events.

Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenager poster. Operation 3D, Wants to remind you poster.

In addition, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office provides traffic safety education by participating in community events, employer activities, and safety expositions; deputies conducted 138 sessions at local high schools during 2003 to educate young drivers about the consequences of aggressive and impaired driving, and made many presentations to community groups about DUI, safety restraint use, and other traffic safety issues.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office obtained permission from the local transit agency to decorate a bus with colorful graphics that promote awareness of the Operation 3D DUI enforcement program. The transit agency frequently rotates the routes assigned to this highly visible “moving billboard” to maximize awareness of the agency's impaired-driving enforcement program throughout the county.

Operation 3D Bus.

Funding

The special enforcement and education programs are partially funded by grants, but mostly by the residents of Hillsborough County, Florida.

Lessons Learned

The principal lessons derived from the experiences of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office are presented in three categories. The first concerns some of the obstacles that were encountered and the actions taken in response, followed by a discussion of the features that are believed to contribute to the success of the agency's efforts. Specific suggestions from the deputies and civilian staff who created and implemented the HCSO's Sheriff's Traffic Operations Plan are presented third.

Obstacles

A consistent approach was lacking.
An important outcome of the STOP development process was identification of the requirement to have consistent supervision and direction of traffic enforcement activities. Each of the four patrol districts has a traffic motor unit, accident Investigators, and DUI deputies. The committee discovered substantial differences in the manner in which the special enforcement activities were conducted in the four districts. There was little evidence of a strategic approach to deployment (e.g., where and when traffic enforcement activities were conducted) and supervision was minimal. In response, the committee recommended that a corporal in each district be assigned the responsibility of supervising all traffic enforcement activities within the district. A Traffic corporal position was created at the discretion of the district major, or the duties were assigned to the existing district administrative corporal. Currently, the traffic corporal position has been established in two of the four districts with responsibility for supervising all traffic enforcement activities within the district commands. The administrative corporal in the other two districts handles the responsibility and delegates planning and other administrative duties to senior motor deputies, as needed. The duties and responsibilities of the traffic corporal continue to expand, which strongly suggests the requirement for permanent positions in all four of the districts.

Personnel were deployed ineffectively.
The traffic analyst who was hired as part of the program discovered that most of the crashes in the county were occurring in the afternoon and evening hours and primarily on Thursdays and Fridays. However, further investigation found that most of the selective district enforcement patrols were being conducted during the morning rush hours and early in the week. The STOP Committee responded by directing the districts to conduct the special patrols during the periods in which they might have the greatest deterrence effect. Traffic enforcement deputies initially resisted the change to strategic deployment, but the effectiveness of the selective enforcement patrols improved when the activity schedules were aligned with the periods of higher crash risk that were identified through analysis.

Court schedules were inconvenient for officers.
Law enforcement personnel were spending inordinate amounts of time in court, which resulted in substantially reduced availability for patrol duty. In response, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the three municipal police departments approached the Hillsborough Clerk of Court to discuss ways to improve communications and reduce the burden on officers, deputies, and their agencies resulting from the existing court appearance requirements. The discussions led to the adoption of a traffic court schedule in which each law enforcement agency was assigned a specific day of the week that would be devoted to the agency's traffic cases. The new schedule limits the amount of time a deputy must spend in court, facilitates scheduling of other activities, and reduces overtime expenses.

Program Strengths

The traffic analyst position and the Traffic Crash Management System were funded by a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation. These assets of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office contribute immensely to the program's success by enabling the agency to identify specific locations of disproportionate crash risk and other traffic safety problems that previously would have remained undocumented and unnoticed. The systematic approach to the identification of traffic-related issues allows the agency to develop new initiatives and enforcement strategies and to use existing resources more efficiently than in the past.

Creation of the traffic corporal position within the patrol districts is another feature that contributes to the success of the Sheriff's Traffic Operation Plan. The many tasks associated with planning and coordinating the special enforcement activities of a District Traffic Unit now are performed by individuals for whom the tasks are their primary responsibilities. Consolidating the workloads and responsibilities in a single point of contact for each district results in improved communication, consistency of approach, and more effective operations. Creation of the traffic corporal position also elevates the level of professionalism and symbolizes the command emphasis placed on traffic safety.

The ability of the Sheriff's Traffic Operation Plan committee to obtain grants to fund special enforcement activities continues to provide fuel for innovation and effort. For example, the Florida Department of Transportation recently awarded $137,000 to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office for a program to reduce the incidence of aggressive driving. The grant funds will be used to purchase four unconventional patrol vehicles and implement a dynamic media campaign targeting aggressive driving.

Open lines of communication and a partnership with the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court continue to contribute to program success. For example, a grant recently was approved for funding a full-time prosecutor for the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office to focus on repeat DUI offenders. The purpose of this grant is to identify repeat DUI offenders, then assign a specialist prosecutor to the cases. It is believed that a consistently high level of prosecution will result in stiffer penalties for repeat offenders.

Suggestions From the Program Organizers

Commitment
First and foremost, the agency must have a commitment to traffic safety. Managers, supervisors, and officers must view traffic enforcement as an important and integral component of the agency's overall mission.

Consistency
Some agencies have a centralized traffic enforcement unit. While this can help, it is not essential to a successful program. However, agencies with decentralized traffic functions, such as the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office,
must ensure that operations are conducted in a standardized manner by each regional or functional component. Close supervision of the planning process and special enforcement operations contributes to a consistent approach throughout the agency.

Analysis and planning
All programs should begin with an analysis of available data, followed by a systematic planning process. That is, all participants should understand that, to be effective, special operations must be guided by strategic goals, and more than simply writing tickets. Analysis and planning ensure that enforcement operations are conducted where and when crashes are occurring, and that officers are writing tickets for the violations that contribute to the elevated crash risk.

Public awareness
Safety presentations and demonstrations should be provided, and brochures and flyers should be distributed to assist the public in understanding the issues and becoming safer drivers. Presentations and materials aimed at high school students and other novice drivers about the dangers of impaired driving are particularly important.

A media campaign to inform the public about the agency's special traffic enforcement operations can (1) help generate support for the programs among concerned citizens; (2) contribute to the general deterrence effect by elevating the perceived risk of being stopped for traffic infractions; and (3) inform citizens that officers and deputies are issuing citations with the intentions of reducing the num­bers of crashes and saving lives, rather than to generate revenue.

Evidence of Program Effects

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reports that deputies issued 17 percent more citations in high-crash-rate corridors during the year 2003, compared to the previous year, and 7 percent more citations overall. The number of traffic fatalities in Hillsborough County declined from 223 in the year 2002 to 198 in 2003, the first full year of the Sheriff's Traffic Operation Program, and alcohol-related crash fatalities declined from 79 to 73.

The following table and figure show that the agency's special enforcement efforts are associated with a 7.6 percent decline in alcohol-related fatalities and an 11.2 percent decline in all traffic fatalities in Hillsborough County, from 2002 to 2003, compared to an 8.8 percent increase in alcohol-related fatalities and a 1 percent increase in all traffic fatalities throughout the State of Florida.

Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities in Hillsborough County, the State of Florida,
and the United States in the Years 2002 and 2003

2002

2003

Change

Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities in Hillsborough County

79

73

-7.6%

Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities in Florida

1,007

1,096

+8.8%

Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities in U.S.*

17,524

17,013

-2.9%

Traffic Fatalities in Hillsborough County

223

198

-11.2%

Traffic Fatalities in Florida*

3,136

3,169

+1%

Traffic Fatalities in U.S.*

43,005

42,643

-.8%


*Data Source: NCSA 2003 Annual Assessment
(www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/ncsa/ppt/2003AAReleaseBW.pdf)
Chart showing the percent change in alcohol-related and total traffic fatalities from 2002 to 2003 in Hillsborough County, Florida, and the USA.

In recognition of the agency's substantial accomplishments, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office received the first place award among sheriff's offices with 1,001-2,000 sworn officers, for the 2003 National Law Enforcement Challenge of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Contacts

John W. Chaffin
Community Relations Bureau
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Offic
2008 8th Avenue E.
Tampa, FL 33605
813-247-8124
jchaffin@hcso.tampa.fl.us

THe LACP National Chiefs badge cresent.