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New police unit to tackle traffic calls

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Police Officer John M. Davis worked three traffic accidents during his shift Monday.

One of 17 police officers who make up the department's new Traffic Unit, he says he enjoys the work.

"I have always liked traffic for some reason," said Davis, who joined the Clayton County Police Department two years ago, after six years with the Riverdale Police Department.

"When I found out they were forming this unit, I knew I had to apply," he said. "I think it's because of the adrenaline rush you get from it."

The Traffic Unit, which deals primarily with violations such as speeding and traffic accidents, hit the streets Monday, led by three supervisors.

The county's police department established the unit to free uniform-patrol officers to respond to more alarm calls, and to focus more on community policing efforts, Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said.

Turner said the Traffic Unit will direct its efforts toward decreasing speeding in neighborhoods and school zones. He said there are several areas in the county where complaints of speeding are high, including stretches of Holiday Boulevard and Tara Boulevard, the intersection of Mt. Zion and Fielder roads in Jonesboro, and along Tara Road in Hampton.

"People can expect to see more road checks taking place," Turner said. "We are stepping up enforcement on traffic issues."

Lt. Brian Danekes, the assistant commander of the Traffic Unit, said traffic calls make up as much as 25 percent of all calls to the police department each day. The department's officers work as many as 700 traffic accidents in a month, Danekes said.

A number of accidents, he said, are caused by aggressive driving behavior, and distractions like cell phones and car radios.

"Our goal is to answer every traffic call, but if we're overloaded, they're [other units] going to be called, and vice-versa," Danekes said.

The traffic unit is split up into two shifts. Officers were split up Monday with seven officers working the day shift, and another six working the night shift. The day shift is from 7 a.m., to 3 p.m., and the night shift continues until 11 p.m., Danekes said.

The unit's officers were also visible at 10 Clayton County schools Monday morning, where they were checking for speeders in the school zones.

"Hopefully, they'll know we're out there," Danekes said. "They'll see us out there, and they'll drive safer. We've always worked school zones, but we're now going to have a more significant presence."