BY SHANNON BEAMON Staff Writer
Sunday, March 30, 2014 —
The Albemarle Police Department has a new traffic officer and unmarked SUV patrolling the streets.
Through a grant issued by the Governor’s Highway Safety program, the Traffic Enforcement Unit recently added a third officer to its ranks.
The grant will provide 85 percent of the funds needed for the position and vehicle this year, about $92,000. The city will fund the remaining 15 percent, about $16,000.
Next year the grant will pay 70 percent of those costs. The third year it will pay 50 percent.
After that the city will decide if it wants to continue to fund that position by itself.
Capt. J.D. Huneycutt said that’s how many new positions start for police departments across the state.
Albemarle’s other two traffic officer positions were also initiated through Governor Highway Safety Program grants. The city took over 100 percent of those costs in 2008.
The grant also provides funds for a new and fully-equipped police vehicle for the officer, a value of about $55,500.
For this time, though, the department opted not for a traditional police car, but for an unmarked 2014 Ford Explorer.
“It helps a lot when you’re out on the roads,” Officer T.J. Hartsall, who was selected for the new position, said.
He worked with Albemarle for five years as a patrol officer prior to applying for the traffic officer position.
“Most people look for bar lights,” Hartsall said.
“This makes them less wary.”
While he will continue to assist the department as a whole, Hartsall’s big priority is now keeping the roads safe.
“We’re really serious about cracking down on driving while impaired,” Hartsall said.
Since he was brought onto the unit, he’s tried to initiate two traffic stops a day.
“Me, personally, I’m real strict on car seats and child restraints,” Hartsall said.
“If you’ve got a child in the car and they’re not buckled up, I will give you a citation.”
He said the unit’s other priorities are enforcing the move-over law, which requires drivers to move to the lane farthest from an officer when he or she pulls someone over, and reducing the amount of speeding in the city.
“But I’m also here to educate people,” Hartsall said.
One of the mandates of Governor’s Highway Safety Program is to provide education about vehicle and road safety.
“Really that’s a big part of keeping the roads safe, educating people on how to be safe,” Hartsall said.
“Particularly the younger generation. They need to know what the consequences are.”
Hartsall has been out to schools, led classes at Marvin Smith’s Driving School in Albemarle and talked with individuals convicted of DWI at Monarch since taking up his new position.
“I love what I do and I’m proud to do what I do,” Hartsall said.
“This is a great program.”
To submit story ideas, contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24 or at email@example.com.