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Niagara Falls
Friday, June 14, 2024
Niagara police out in force as school returns
Constable Rusty Engelen uses a radar gun to monitor driving speeds near Crossroads Public School. EVAN LOREE
Constable Mark Fortuna teaches some St. Michael students a little about traffic safety. EVAN LOREE

Niagara Regional Police were out in force for the first day of school.

For its 23rd annual Traffic and Safety Awareness Day, police set up speed traps all across Niagara to catch motorists moseying too quickly through community safety zones.

“We do it as a reminder to everybody about slowing down,” said Deputy Chief Brett Flynn, who was in Niagara-on-the-Lake overseeing the blitz on Tuesday.

Police tend to concentrate their efforts in schools, he said, because drivers need the reminder that kids are back to school and crossing roads in larger numbers.

Officers had three speed traps set up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, one at each of the town’s three schools. 

The team of officers spent about an hour and a half at each, first at Crossroads Public School in the morning, second at St. Michael Catholic Elementary School at lunch, and finally at St. Davids Public School for last bell. 

Each school is also near a community safety zone.

The department didn’t break down the statistics by area, so it’s unclear how many tickets were handed out in NOTL.

But across the region, officers issued 176 tickets to drivers for various offences, mostly speeding.

They also issued 56 warnings to drivers, again for speeding.

Flynn told The Lake Report there were 10 police teams running radar across Niagara, and most of them were working in community safety zones. 

“The purpose of a community safety zone is to change driver behaviour and improve safety,” the department says on its website. 

Speeding fines are doubled in community safety zones and the amounts can add up quickly.

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act fines drivers $5 per kilometre over the posted speed limit. 

That rises to $7.50 per kilometre if the driver exceeds the limit by 20 to 29 km/h.

Early Tuesday, a team of four officers were using radar to monitor traffic speeds as drivers cruised down Niagara Stone Road, past Crossroads Public School.

Flynn said whether police issue a warning or a ticket often depends on the judgment of the officer.

“In some cases, you’re just going to see speed. It’s such an excess that probably warnings are not going to help people recognize that they need to slow down,” he said.

The region also has plans to set up automated speed cameras on Niagara Stone Road in the new year.

Four speed cameras will be shared across the region and one will be used from January to March 2024 near Crossroads Public School.

Flynn does not think speed cameras will make traffic enforcement officers obsolete, though.

“Our visible presence in a lot of situations is a good reminder for people as well,” he said.

“I think there’s a feeling of safety, when you see police out and working in those zones,” he added.

Traffic stops on the first day of school were conducted as normal, he said.

Flynn has been policing for 33 years and says he plans to retire next February, so this is his last back-to-school operation.

“It was time,” he said, pointing out that he has lots of grandchildren to spend time with.

Looking back, he said it’s been an exciting time.

“It’s a front-row seat to some pretty incredible things, happy and sad.”

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