Hillsborough County Sheriff's
Office Hillsborough County, Florida
Sheriff's Traffic Operations Plan
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.
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.
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.
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).
The Sheriff's Traffic Operations Plan includes the following components: Traffic Analysis, Procedures and Training, Enforcement Strategies, Public Awareness and Education, and Evaluation.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The special enforcement and education programs are partially funded by grants, but mostly by the residents of Hillsborough County, Florida.
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.
A consistent approach was lacking.
Personnel were deployed ineffectively.
Court schedules were inconvenient for officers.
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
Analysis and planning
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 EffectsThe 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,
*Data Source: NCSA 2003 Annual Assessment
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.