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City seeks grant to aid in traffic enforcement
• Funding would cover overtime, new vehicle
Traffic enforced in Ceres
A Ceres Police patrol officer works radar in a stretch of Whitmore Avenue. A grant would lead to more funds for traffic enforcement efforts like this. - photo by Courtesy of Ceres Police

The city of Ceres plans to seek a state grant for a special enforcement program to combat “continually increasing number of traffic complaints for some of the most dangerous driving behaviors to include speeding, stop sign, and school violations,” according to a city staff report.

The Office of Traffic Safety is offering a grant that, if secured, will provide the city with funding for $65,000 in equipment purchases and $104,663 for 80 eight-hour personnel shifts of overtime (including the cost of benefits) to be used for the following:

• DUI checkpoints;

• DUI saturation patrols;

• Distracted driving patrols;

• Night-time “Click it or Ticket” patrols;

• Enforcing traffic violations, which are the primary causes of collisions, during selective traffic enforcement.

If secured, the grant will provide funding for a new vehicle. 

Ceres Police Department has recorded a three percent increase in traffic crashes, from 693 in 2022 to 715 in 2023. Injury crashes increased by one percent with 206 of the 693 crashes in 2022 resulting in injury. Of the 715 crashes in 2023, 209 of them resulted in injuries.

Alcohol-related injury crashes decreased by 18 percent from 22 in 2022, to 18 in 2023.

Ceres saw a 400 percent increase in the number of fatal crashes and fatalities between 2022 and 2023. Five fatal crashes occurred in 2023 – one of which involved a drunken driver – resulting in the deaths of six persons.

Ceres hopes to secure the grant to enforce traffic laws and educate the public.

In stating the case for a grant, Ceres Police note that the department’s efforts in heavier enforcement are likely the reason for fewer crashes during the 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. time frame; from 119 crashes in 2022 to 102 crashes in 2023, a 14 percent decrease. 

The department sees grant funding as the best shot to crackdown on speed since it remains the primary crash factor in most crashes. During 2022, 129 crashes were listed as having a primary factor of unsafe speed. In 2023, crash numbers increased by two percent with 132 crashes with unsafe speed being the primary crash factor. 

The Ceres Police Department plans to stagger days and times for traffic patrols to maximize their effectiveness. While traffic enforcement is primarily done using Harley motorcycles, inclement weather and excessive heat hinders their use so the city wants a new patrol car/SUV to give officers the ability to carry necessary equipment needed for major traffic collision investigations, such as the recent fatal collisions involving a semi-truck.

Currently, traffic officers are forced to go to the traffic garage and load the necessary tools and equipment into a truck and drive to the scene of a collision. Having the needed equipment readily accessible at all times will create greater efficiency, expedite investigations and thereby allow investigators to return to traffic enforcement services.

The department’s patrol fleet is aging with some vehicles nearing 100,000 miles or exceeding 100,000 miles. 

The Ceres Police Department Traffic Division plans to stager days and times traffic officers are on patrol to combat the DUI problem. An ideal traffic patrol car/SUV would be one that could be outfitted with subdued emergency lighting and official police markings to better blend in with traffic and be effective for DUI enforcement as well as DUI checkpoints, and DUI saturation patrols. If the Ceres Police Department is granted funding for a new traffic car/SUV, an anti-dui message will be displayed on the vehicle to act as a mobile billboard.