The Hope Police Department is expanding the focus of its STEP enforcement program under a grant application approved Tuesday by the Hope City Board of Directors.
HPD Chief J. R. Wilson said the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program grant which the department has participated in for a number of years is expanding its enforcement protocol to include driving while texting or using a cell phone while driving.
Wilson said it remains unclear whether HPD can enforce those two violations as primary traffic law violations under current Arkansas law, but he noted, “This particular mobilization is being put out nationally.”
Hope Mayor Dennis Ramsey said he would be glad to see the expanded enforcement, explaining that he recently encountered a driver who turned into a parking lot ahead of him, and was obviously sending and receiving text messages on a cell phone as she drove.
“And, I'm not sure she ever looked at the road,” Ramsey said. “But, she kept those thumbs working.”
Wilson said that in 2012, the overtime pay funding from the STEP grant produced 42 DWI/DUI arrests; 290 seat belt citations; 15 child restraint citations; nine speeding citations; two felony arrests; 20 fugitive apprehensions; 77 suspended driver's license citations; 34 uninsured motorist citations; one reckless driving citations; and one narcotics arrest among a total of 1,239 traffic stops resulting in 683.55 man hours.
He said $3,500 of the grant is used to buy child restraint seats which the HPD provides and installs free for parents, and $24,000 of the grant is used to pay officer overtime resulting from the various STEP enforcement initiatives.
The board also approved an application by HPD to the U. S. Department of Justice for replacement of bullet proof vests for the department. Wilson said the department attempts to rotate vests out of service every five years. He said the DOJ grant was a no-match 50 percent grant, which will be supplemented by a grant from the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police.
Also Tuesday, the board reluctantly purchased a Kawasaki 360 4x4 for $5,945.39 from Futrell Marine of Nashville, the only bidder for the purchase, according to City Manager Catherine Cook. The vehicle will be used as a “plane mover” at the Hope Municipal Airport.
Cook said City staff attempted to find some way to get the job done without a new purchase, and later advertised the purchase locally twice, but still received only one bid.
The board also unanimously approved a zoning ordinance which was not originally on the agenda to change property owned by Helen Conway from R2 to R5. Cook said the action, again, represents a “spot zoning” change by the City.