Vargas: Anaheim PD taps into Facebook for traffic enforcement efforts



I think we all have to admit that one of the least popular people in any police department is the traffic officer.

There are few people who will admit they deserve a citation, and even fewer who will go out of their way to thank the officer for giving them one.

It is a necessary function of policing to prevent anarchy in the streets.

Over the past few years, the Anaheim Police Department traffic division has been making strides at engaging and connecting with residents through innovative education and enforcement programs.

Since 2010, Anaheim traffic officers have been educating children and adults on the importance of traffic safety. In the past year,the program has reached more than 6,000 children and 700 adults.

This is in addition to the “Every 15 Minutes” program offered at local high schools, which emphasizes the consequences of driving while impaired.

I discovered last week Anaheim traffic officers have now gone in a new direction to connect with the community.

They announced on the Anaheim Police Department Facebook page on Sept. 29 they would be posting the locations of their enforcement efforts. In essence, they were telling everyone when and where traffic officers would be handing out citations.

I look at a lot of police department Facebook pages. I don’t recall seeing anyone telegraphing traffic enforcement efforts quite like this.

If that wasn’t enough, they have gone out on a limb and asked residents where they would like to see traffic officers. There has been no shortage of responses.

In the first posting, there is a map showing the location of traffic officers at Nohl Canyon Elementary School.  In the next frame, is a radar gun display showing 54 mph. The area around the school is a 35 mph zone. Obviously someone didn’t check Facebook.

The responses have been overwhelmingly positive with no shortage of suggested intersections, parking issues and speedways needing their presence. Here are few of them:Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 11.52.05 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 10.34.28 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 10.13.27 AM

The officers have been responding to the suggestions and following up. In some cases, posting point-of-view photos while working the suggested area.

I’m going to call it “community directed traffic enforcement.”

I spoke with Traffic Bureau Commander Lt. Alex Orozco about the endeavors. I asked him what his expectations were for the officers in the field. He said, “I don’t care how many tickets our officers write. I just want them to be meaningful.

“If we have situations where there are accidents or complaints, I want us to dig deeper into what the problem is. In some cases, a simple sign change is all that’s needed. In others, it takes the presence of officers conducting enforcement that make a difference in driving behavior.”

I shared with Lt. Orozco a Facebook posting where it was suggested traffic enforcement was just a way to raise money for the department.

He replied, “I’ve been here nearly two years and I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head how much revenue is generated. It’s never taken into consideration when writing citations. What I do care about is reducing the number of accidents in this city and making the streets safer for pedestrians.”

I checked again today and the traffic postings are still getting a lot of attention. I think Anaheim PD is on to something here. The level of engagement has been over the top with page views, likes and comments.

Based on the response, I’m sure there will be a number of agencies adopting similar strategies.

Now if only I can get the CHP to do something about the drivers crossing the double lines into the carpool lanes.