Columbus business owners say there’s too much policingPublished 3:54pm Wednesday, February 27, 2013
In federal fiscal year 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011-Sept. 30, 2012), the Columbus Police Department wrote 405 warning tickets and so far in 2013 (October through January), the department has written 159 warning tickets. During 2012, officers wrote 58 speeding tickets for someone going 25 mph or more over the speed limit, according to Beddingfield. There were 362 tickets issued for persons going between 16 and 24 mph over the speed limit in 2012. In 2012, Columbus police arrested 110 persons for driving while impaired. So far in 2013, Columbus officers have arrested 25 persons for driving while impaired.
According to the town’s monthly police report, in January, the police department issued a total of 199 citations, including 92 for speeding and 19 for drug charges.
“What we’re doing is for public safety, saving lives and reducing traffic accidents,” Beddingfield said. “If you’re not violating the law, you don’t have anything to worry about.”
Beddingfield also said traffic enforcement is so important because all crimes go mobile at some point, including for drugs and stolen property. And the most successful way to catch criminals is through traffic enforcement.
Brenda Searcy said she was stopped pulling out of U.S. 74 and an officer tore out from the BP, came flying up the road and said he clocked her doing 56 mph in a 40 mph zone.
“I know that I was not,” she said. “I had just pulled out.”
She said she was not speeding and she’s never had a speeding ticket in North Carolina until then. She said she was found guilty in court and it cost her more than $200 for something she said she was not guilty of.
“It made sense when I read in the Bulletin today because they get so many points,” Brenda Searcy said. “Do you know how many people’s businesses have fell off since they’ve been doing this the past six months?”
She added that it’s “our” tax money that pays for part of the officers’ salaries.
“I don’t mind helping the town but I’m not going to be harassed,” she said.
Columbus Mayor Eric McIntyre said there is always one police officer on duty within city limits. He also told the Searcys council would take what they said and see where the town can improve if it needs to improve.
Beddingfield said the department does not get points for writing tickets, only for participating in joint operational check points and classes for BikeSafe. Columbus participates in the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program and receives points for participation, which equates dollar for dollar in free equipment for the department. Columbus was recently honored for being the top point-getter in the state for 2012.
Beddingfield also said his department gets more complaints that officers are not doing enough speed enforcement in town than that they do too much. The speed limit along Mills Street was lowered from 35 mph to 25 mph due to citizen complaints over speeding.
Beddingfield also said he knows of no businesses that have closed due to their presence in town.
“I’d hope people would feel safer coming to town due to there being less chance of getting hit by a drunk driver or speeder,” said Beddingfield. “We’re not out to harass people or to treat people unfairly, but to keep people safe.”