by Valerie Verkamp
Apparently there are far fewer people hitting the streets of Platte City after having a few drinks--and far fewer drivers committing other infractions behind the wheel.
DWI arrests made by the Platte City Police Department are down 40% in Platte City.
And that’s not all.
Traffic citations issued by the Platte City Police Department dropped by 33% in 2012.
That’s according to statistics compiled by the Platte City Police Department. The numbers were distributed to the city’s elected officials and posted online.
Perhaps concerning to taxpayers, the drastic drops in arrests and traffic citations comes at a time the police department’s budget has increased by 30% over the past two years.
According to the numbers compiled by the police department, only 22 DWI arrests were made by the Platte City Police Department in the first 11 months of 2012. That’s an eye-opening reduction in DWI arrests compared to the first 11 months of 2010 and 2011.
For example, in the first 11 months of 2010, the Platte City Police Department made 39 DWI arrests.
In the first 11 months of 2011, the department arrested 36 persons for DWI.
In terms of percentages, the 22 DWI arrests in 2012 is 44% lower than the number of arrests for the same crime in 2010, and 39% lower than the number of DWI arrests in 2011.
Other information included in the statistical report released by the department shows a major drop in another category.
Traffic citations, including moving, non-moving, and warnings, also declined dramatically in Platte City in 2012, to the lowest in many years.
There were 2,302 traffic citations issued by the Platte City Police Department. That is 1,110 fewer traffic citations than in the first 11 months of 2011.
According to information compiled by the department and obtained by The Landmark, the category referred to as “traffic citations” includes moving violations, non-moving violations and warnings.
Lieutenant Al DeValkenaere with the Platte City Police Department said he is aware that the number of DWI arrests, as well as the overall number of traffic citations, has decreased over the past two years. He indicated the police department is currently examining what factors led to the drop. They have ruled out a reduction in overall traffic flow in Platte City as a reason contributing to the decrease.
“We haven't done any electronic monitoring (of traffic volume) and I'm not aware that the state has done any monitoring, but I would assume that it has either stayed the same or increased. I would doubt very seriously that it went down,” said DeValkenaere.
The crime statistics report indicates that the number of traffic stops also decreased in Platte City over the past two years. In 2012, there were 2,470 traffic stops, while in the previous year there were 2,493. When comparing the number of traffic stops to those in 2010, there is a drop of 132.
DeValkenaere said it is typical for the number of traffic citations including traffic stops to fluctuate from year to year.
“I think there is a natural ebb and flow to things,” said DeValkenaere, indicating the decrease in DWI arrests and traffic citations may not be an indication that there is a problem.
When asked whether the department plans on doing anything differently this fiscal year, DeValkenaere said if the Platte City Police Department discovered a specific problem, then they will create a solution to solve it.
“We don't have any quotas, so it’s not like we can say so-and-so is not doing this and so-and-so is not doing that,” said DeValkenaere.
But police may struggle in determining any specific reasons why figures have declined. By Monday night, after The Landmark had presented questions to police about the huge drop in DWI arrests and traffic citations, DeValkenaere was trying to backtrack from the initial numbers that had been released by the department. He told The Landmark he was now questioning whether the figures released by the department were accurate. But he did not provide any evidence or new numbers that would indicate the initial totals were incorrect.
He tried to explain it by saying taking the warnings out of traffic citation totals would show there really wasn’t a huge discrepancy, saying that there was a emphasis to stop giving warnings and instead issue tickets.
But his words don’t stand up to logic and facts presented by the department’s statistical report. Fewer warnings should indicate more actual citations, which is not the case.
In addition, the report issued by the department clearly indicates the numbers indicate “traffic citations, including moving, non-moving, and warnings.”
That fact would also discount Devalkenaere’s attempt to explain the drop.
Concerned citizens may wonder if the Platte City Police Department needs to refocus more of its attention back to traffic enforcement. The department has been criticized recently by some observers for spending too much time, attention and resources on minor issues, such as feral cats.
Although there were no traffic fatalities in the city of Platte City in 2012, there were 21 traffic investigations where injuries were reported. That is 15 more investigations where injuries were reported than just two years ago.
A bright spot to the traffic investigation figures is a significant reduction to property damage, as well as hit and runs. Last year, there were 131 traffic investigations regarding property damage, where in 2010 there were 171 investigations.
THE FINANCIAL NUMBERS
The budget for the city's police department general fund for fiscal year 2013 is $1,131,608, up about 30 percent from just two years ago.
In 2010-2011, the actual expenditures for the Platte City Police Department were $871,963.
A new radio communication system, repairs to the department's facility, as well as the purchasing of two Ford Taurus Interceptors significantly contributed to the 2013 operating budget.
There was also a five percent increase in personnel services, which stems from the rising cost of health insurance premiums and a greater sum of money dedicated to overtime compensation that were major components of the 2013 fiscal year budget.
“Benefit costs have increased by $35,000 over the past two years with an over $22,000 increase related to health insurance premiums alone,” said D.J. Gehrt, city administrator.
Lacking optimism due to the health care insurance market, Gehrt said the city is actively searching for a more cost effective benefit package.
The Platte City Police Department, comprised of a police chief, a lieutenant, three sergeants, six patrol officers, and one administrative staff position, proposes it will spend $762,926 on personnel services in 2013.
Carl Mitchell, chief of police, earns an annual salary of $72,654 and Lt. DeValkenere earns $54,038 a year. Sergeants, who are paid by the hour, earn $18.39 to $25.73 per hour and patrol officers, who are also paid by the hour, receive $16.97 to $23.74 per hour.
A quick breakdown of the expenditures indicates that the Platte City Police Department will spend $145,867 on services, $62,348 on supplies, and $99,372 on capital, which includes equipment, building improvements, as well as furniture and fixtures.