Issaquah Council approves three month traffic enforcement program

Police to ramp up traffic patrol in downtown core.

After the approval of three additional police officer positions in February, the Issaquah City Council has approved an expedited traffic enforcement pilot program to increase traffic patrolling in major corridors during the staffing process.

The council heard a presentation from Police Chief Scott Behrbaum on the proposed project variants of the increased traffic enforcement during the March 19 meeting. Council approved the staff recommended option titled 1A, which adds three six-hour shifts per week focused on traffic patrols from April 1 to June 30. The patrols will focus on the downtown core, including Northwest Gilman Boulevard, Front Street and SR 900.

The traffic program was brought forth by Behrbaum after the council approved the addition of three police officer positions for the department in February. Two of the three positions are designated as traffic enforcement officers. The new staff won’t be fully up and running until the end of 2019, he said.

Behrbaum said the project will be accomplished through additional overtime hours served by Issaquah Police Department employees as well as contracting the services of Washington State Patrol.

In addition to increased enforcement hours, the police department will be working with Peak Democracy, a public engagement firm that partners with government agencies, to collect citizen and community input about the driving behaviors before and after the increased traffic enforcement.

This plan is projected to cost at maximum $34,125. Council member Mariah Bettise said the price will be determined by ratio of work between police and State Patrol.

“At the work study, there was general support of the recommendation of 1A,” she said. “The committee expressed the desire to limit the number of shifts to 39 for the pilot program, with an understanding that the expenditure could be lower than the request amount, this would be dependent on the ratio between Issaquah Police Department and Washington State Patrol.”

Behrbaum followed up by stating most of the project cost comes from contracting with State Patrol. If the workload is mostly done by city police department employees, the total cost could be significantly lower.

“It would then be lower if it was filled by all Issaquah Police Department employees,” he said. “It would be closer to a little over $18,000 of expenditures.”

The 1A plan outlines that over three months, 39 shifts with 234 hours of traffic enforcement emphasis will be performed. A total of 702 traffic stops are expected to result from this increase in time and attention.

Council member Paul Winterstein said he was in favor of the program’s three month time-frame as a way to measure the effects of increased enforcement. Depending on the results, he said, we would be interested in extending the duration of the program.

“Should it say that this is an essential program that should continue, that maybe we should cover the gap until you have the rest of your officers online,” he said. “I am interested in entertaining discussion to extend it at that time.”

Also in support was Council member Victoria Hunt, who stated that she hoped that programs like this will only be a stop gap solution until the police department is fully staffed with the three new officers.

Beherbaum was thanked for the work he has put into developing this project and Council member Bill Ramos commented that he hopes the program is able to change driving behaviors for the better.

“I think our goal here is to change behaviors, our goal is not to find people and collect money,” he said. “It is to change driving behaviors so it is safer and actually flow better because people are doing the right things.”