NPD hires traffic safety officer

Speeders and drunk drivers beware.

Newton Police Department recently hired a traffic enforcement officer to keep the city a safe place to live, work and drive.

Officer Brett Williams will patrol Newton's streets, looking for traffic violations in an effort to make the city and its citizens safer.

"My main objective is to make our city a safer place to live," Williams said. "We will be actively looking for infractions."

Williams' position and equipment is funded through a grant from the N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Commission. The grant funds about 85 percent of costs associated with Williams' duties, which include his police car, weapon, uniform and radar equipment. The city is responsible for the remaining funds.

Williams' new position will allow him to focus on implementation of traffic laws. Citizens will notice an increase in police patrol and checkpoints to catch infractions, from seat belt violations to drunk drivers.

"The police department is committed to making our roads safer through education and aggressive enforcement," said Newton Police Chief Don Brown. "It's all about voluntary compliance."

The goal of WIlliams' position, however, isn't about writing a lot of tickets.

"If we can reduce the number of traffic accidents without writing a whole bunch of citations, then that means we're successful," Brown said.

Williams will target areas within the city known for speeding and other traffic problems. He said Startown Road and U.S. 321 are bad locations for speeders.

"If we've got speeding issues on certain roads, we need to slow those down," Williams said.

Another common infraction Williams sees is seat belt violations.

As a traffic enforcement officer, Williams will also work with other enforcement officers in the area. Hickory and Conover police departments also have traffic safety officers through the Highway Safety Commission.

The officers combine forces to execute large-scale checkpoints in the county and surrounding areas. Working with other agencies earns Williams points with the Highway Safety Program. Over time, those points can be redeemed for additional police equipment.

This time of year is especially important to be conscious of traffic laws and possible driving hazards, Brown said. Traffic volume increases with the holidays, and more out-of-towners are driving on unfamiliar roads. Also, Brown said the holidays are a season of celebration, and some people choose to overindulge in alcoholic beverages.

These factors, combined with cold temperatures and possible winter weather, make driving potentially treacherous during the holidays.

Williams will investigate car accidents that occur in the city.

Although Williams started his traffic enforcement position Dec. 1 with NPD, he has worked at the department since December 2009 as a patrol officer. He also worked as a deputy and school resource officer in Alexander County.

"I want our citizens to understand that the police department does not want to issue citations, but we will enforce the law," Williams said. "I encourage everyone to drive safely and obey the law."