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Police chief touts crackdown on road scofflaws, including speeders and skateboarders

Police Chief Bill Walsh, along with Sgt. Paul Storti, presented a recently designed strategic enforcement plan to the selectboard Monday night at the Claire Teague Senior Center.

Great Barrington — After a series of accidents and complaints from residents about speeding, traffic congestion and other road problems at a selectboard meeting last month, the Great Barrington Police Department is clamping down on speeders.

Police Chief Bill Walsh, along with Sgt. Paul Storti, presented a recently designed strategic enforcement plan to the selectboard Monday night (Sept. 9) at the Claire Teague Senior Center. The plan (click here to view the PDF) included not only stricter and more efficient enforcement, but improved community outreach as well.

See video below of the Chief Bill Walsh presenting his plan Monday night, followed by the introduction of newly hired officer Bradley Lupiani:

“Right after the first meeting when we heard complaints, I met with the town manager [Mark Pruhenski] and we talked,” Walsh said. “We issued a standing order to all patrol persons that each officer was required to run at least four blocks of radar, half an hour each, during an eight-hour shift.”

Walsh presented data for the week of Aug. 31 to Sept. 6:

There were 324 radar/crosswalk assignments to officers, resulting in:

  • 59 citations/warnings being issued;
  • one arrest for operating under the influence;
  • one arrest for two outstanding warrants; and
  • three summonses for criminal violations.
Flags adorn the Great Barrington police station this week in memory of 9/11. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Those numbers are higher than usual because of the increased level of enforcement, but Walsh emphasized that it will be difficult to maintain those levels because on any given shift, he only has two patrol cars away from the station. In addition, the department is currently operating with four officers fewer than normal, though he hopes to erase that deficit soon with new hires.

“We have ramped up the enforcement, at least on a temporary basis, until we can announce a few changes tonight,” Walsh said.

The traffic enforcement unit will increase stop-sign and crosswalk patrols, “will work during random times and complete a directed traffic control form at the end of each assignment, and utilize all tools and resources to enforce traffic laws,” Walsh explained.

Police have also been more active on the streets. Many, including Walsh himself, walk around downtown whenever they can. While walking, the officers not only engage with the community but they are happy to remind people of the town bylaw on bicycles, scooters and skateboards.

First responders administer aid to the teen skateboarder who was struck by a motorist in a Main Street crosswalk on Tuesday. Photo: Terry Cowgill

In Great Barrington, town bylaws prohibit skateboarding on certain streets, including “Main Street, from St. James Place to Cottage Street.” That area came under increased scrutiny after a skateboarder in a Main Street crosswalk was struck and injured Aug. 21 by a motorist, only nine days after residents complained of traffic problems to the selectboard.

After interviewing witnesses and reviewing security camera footage, police filed no charges against the driver, who struck the skateboarder in a southbound portion of the crosswalk at the intersection of Main and Railroad streets. It should be noted that the skateboarder, a 15-year-old male, was violating the aforementioned bylaw.

It is also likely that some officers will be using unmarked vehicles and continue employing traffic calming measures such as speed trailers, units that measure drivers’ speed and flash the speed back at the driver.

Walsh was responding to the aforementioned Aug. 12 selectboard meeting at which several residents complained loudly of speeding and careless driving on Main Street, East Street (which runs parallel to Main Street) and Taconic Avenue in Great Barrington’s The Hill neighborhood. Some of those residents insisted police had been less than responsive to previous complaints.

Four years ago, there were similar complaints about speeding on The Hill, prompting police to conduct a speed study using a so-called Speed Spy, a nondescript speed radar that mounts on any telephone pole and collects traffic data on passing vehicles, including speed.

Some of the crosswalks need to be “freshened up” or repainted, Walsh said, and more attention is being paid to Stockbridge Road, the commercial corridor north of downtown where there have been several accidents in recent months.

Great Barrington Department of Public Works head Sean VanDeusen. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Town department of public works director Sean Van Deusen and Walsh have met with officials with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation at its regional headquarters in Lenox to discuss Stockbridge Road which is a state highway, Route 7. Both men have also been talking with MassDOT officials about the controversial roundabout planned for the intersection of routes 7, 41 and 23 in front of the police station.

“They’ve given us some ideas,” Walsh said. “We’re looking at more lighting and maybe some dynamic speed signs. There are a few people crossing the street from hotels and restaurants that have gotten hit and we want to address those complaints.”

Walsh also asked that residents advise police of road signs that are obstructed by weeds and bushes. Police will then refer the complaints to Van Deusen.

Walsh urged residents and others who wished to report a problem to use the complaint form on the police department’s website.


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