Overhaul of Pittsfield traffic fine structure under consideration

Tuesday June 4, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- An overhaul of the traffic violation fine structure is under consideration during ongoing municipal budget sessions, two city councilors told the Police Advisory Committee Monday.

Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell, also a member of the Traffic Commission, and Councilor at large Melissa Mazzeo asked the citizen committee for input on possible changes.

A key goal, they said, is to provide additional revenue to the city to cover the cost of expanded traffic patrolling and enforcement.

Connell and Police Chief Michael J. Wynn said some of the fines listed in the governing section of city code have not been updated for nearly 40 years. For instance, Wynn said, the fine for jaywalking is $2, which does not cover the cost of the ticket itself.

In answer to questions from committee members, the chief said that, in addition to raising revenue to fund greater enforcement, the goal is to crack down on problem areas -- such as around Pittsfield High School during student drop-off and pick-up times.

The committee also was asked for input concerning possible ordinance changes that might be required to better control traffic violations and problem areas.

Mazzeo and Connell said after the meeting that overtime pay for officers would fund addition traffic patrols, at least initially. Extra revenue from fines would be expected to cover the expense of patrols.

They said research into similar programs in Lowell and elsewhere showed that with increased traffic violation control the overall crime rate falls in other categories as well.

Wynn also asked committee members Monday for input on his efforts to rewrite sections in city code that severely restrict his ability to administratively change staffing and duties within the Police Department to address changing circumstances and growing needs.

The chief said current ordinances specify, for instance, how many of certain positions must be in the department and how divisions must be ordered.

He said he was told the ordinances are "a historical artifact" but can only be changes through adoption of new sections.

He asked for help in preparing ordinance changes for submission to the council for review.

To reach Jim Therrien: jtherrien@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6247 On Twitter: @BE_therrien


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