Chief: OPD is taking speed concerns seriously

By Valerie Urbanik -

It’s clear speeding cars are a big concern among our readers, with several letters to the editor on the topic hitting the News-Tribune’s pages in the past month.

“We are taking these complaints very seriously,” Oberlin police chief Juan Torres told us this week. “I’m keeping a close eye on this.”

Writers have pointed to high-speed drivers in 25 mph residential zones on Pyle Road, Morgan, Professor, College, Pleasant, and Hamilton streets and asked why police aren’t engaging in more traffic enforcement.

“I am constantly amazed by how many people speed on our 25 mph streets,” wrote Kevin Weidenbaum in November. “I am appalled that our local police force apparently makes no attempt to stop speeders.”

According to the Oberlin police department’s 2014 annual report, 33 adults were cited with speeding violations and no juveniles.

“The number of speeding tickets issued by the Oberlin police department does not accurately reflect our work,” Torres said. “The numbers don’t tell the entire story.”

He said in the last two months officers have pulled over an average of 12 drivers per month for speeding but only issued three tickets.

“The other 21 drivers received verbal warnings. However, of those 21 drivers that received a verbal warning, four of them received tickets for secondary violations,” the chief said.

Those violations could be for defective equipment, suspension, drugs, or other offenses.

Torres said he trusts his officers’ judgment on when to give verbal warnings or tickets.

“The basic traffic stop is more of an opportunity for the officer to educate the driver on the dangers of speeding and by giving a warning they are doing just that,” he said.

Torres said he assigned officers in September for two weeks to use radar guns on streets where the department received complaints.

Only one ticket was issued during that period and several warnings.

Torres plans to assign officers to more radar enforcement. A “ghost car,” also known as an empty cruiser, will be placed on streets with the most complaints.

The chief also wants to install more speed signs throughout the city, and is doing more campaigning via social media.

Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.

By Valerie Urbanik