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Traffic enforcement not back to pre-pandemic levels, CPD data shows

A crosswalk sign in East Westwood, Cincinnati.
Becca Costello
A crosswalk sign in East Westwood, Cincinnati.

New data from the Cincinnati Police Department shows disproportionate traffic enforcement across the city. Council Member Mark Jeffreys is pushing for more data and a better plan to promote safety.

CPD issued a report in response to a council motion asking for information about speeding violations. The data shows three neighborhoods (Lower Price Hill, Mount Airy, and Queensgate) account for about 40% of speeding citations from 2017 to 2021.

Lower Price Hill alone had 1,568 citations during those five years (about 313 a year) out of 9,520 total across the city.

"Most of those are likely along Route 50," Jeffreys said. "So what that tells me is we're not doing enforcement in the neighborhoods."

A Department of Transportation and Engineering study last year found 95% of vehicles driving on Winneste Ave. in Winton Hills were speeding before the installation of a temporary speed cushion. In that neighborhood, police issued 230 tickets in five years, or about 46 a year.

A separate study funded by the Devou Good Foundation looked at speeds on Hamilton Avenue in College Hill for one week in mid-February. It found 681 cars going at least 20 mph over the limit. In College Hill, police issued 127 speeding tickets, or about 25 a year.

Jeffreys and other council members say traffic and pedestrian safety is one of the number one constituent concerns they hear.

"There is a resounding belief that traffic enforcement in whatever capacity is down, and that our streets are not as safe," said Council Member Jeff Cramerding. "So I think the question I would like to see is, is this traffic enforcement down? If not, fine. If yes, why? And that might be a difficult conversation, but that's why we're here."

Assistant Chief Mike John says that's a fair question, and there are a lot of reasons enforcement might be down, including the pandemic.

"You look at the turnover officers that we have; we have very young officers in the department that were trained during the time where we were not doing as much proactive enforcement and that carries on," John said.

John says he meets with Transportation and Engineering Director John Brazina every five weeks to problem-solve traffic calming solutions and enforcement efforts.

"We're also very responsive to community complaints," John said. "That is a big part of what drives where we go to do our traffic enforcement."

Interim Police Chief Theresa Theetge says citations alone are not a good indicator of whether enforcement is happening.

"If we can make a traffic stop and simply educate somebody on their driving habits that alerted us to them without issuing a citation, then I think we've done our due diligence there," Theetge told council this week. "And hopefully culminated that interaction into a positive police community contact as well."

Council members and police officials say they don't want to go back to quotas for speeding tickets or traffic stops; Jeffreys says he wants to find a middle ground.

Theetge plans to report back to council with an updated report that includes traffic stop data.

WVXU has analyzed that information, which is posted publicly on Cincy Insights. The data shows CPD is making about half the number of traffic stops compared to the year before the pandemic.

CPD data published on Cincy Insights shows officers have made about 5,300 traffic stops so far in 2022, compared to about 10,500 by this time in 2019.
City of Cincinnati
Cincy Insights
CPD data published on Cincy Insights shows officers have made about 5,300 traffic stops so far in 2022, compared to about 10,500 by this time in 2019.

Avondale tops the list with the most traffic stops from 2017 to 2021, followed by East Price Hill, West End, Westwood, and Walnut Hills.

On average across all neighborhoods, 9% of traffic stops include a citation rather than a warning, but that number varies widely.

In Lower Price Hill, 64% of stops got a citation, compared to 2% of stops in Avondale; 6% in East Price Hill; and less than 1% in Walnut Hills.

Jeffreys says it's clear more needs to be done about speeding in the city; and if CPD focused more on traffic enforcement, perhaps there weren't be as many crashes to respond to.

"We're talking about 194,000 hours a year, in 2021, devoted to responding to crashes," Jeffreys said. "That equals 93 full time police officers a year that are being devoted to responding to crashes."

Jeffreys says he's inviting all the community council presidents to a meeting to brainstorm how to better control speeding. He's asked CPD officials to join that meeting as well.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.