Palo Alto could stop collecting traffic-stop data | June 4, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 4, 2010

Palo Alto could stop collecting traffic-stop data

Demographic reports may be scrapped to trim expenses, narrow budget gap

by Gennady Sheyner

The Palo Alto Police Department's tally of traffic stops, broken down by racial categories, has always raised more questions than it answered.

This story contains 1095 words.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by PAPD-Critic, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Outsourcing the legal, HR, IT departments alone would save the city 2.5 million annually.


Posted by Raise-the-Speed-Limit, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:45 am

The traffic stop data collection has always been less than perfect, showing that the Police Department management is more math challenged that not. Additionally, the statistical analysis needed requires a bit more data than the police have been willing to collect.

There are a couple "red flags" in the data that should have been noticed by the City Council, but have not. These "flags" indicate that there are a lot of traffic stops without citations. So, the question of "why are the police stopping people and not citing them" should have been answered by this exercise. It was not.

We probably should be wondering if the speed limit being too low is a problem that needs to be addressed. But that question didn't come up either.

Given the cost, and annoyance, and the lack of anything of substance that has been revealed by this exercise, and the clear proof that no one at city hall knows anything about statistics .. what's the point of continuing to pay for this exercise in futility?

Time to drop this activity until there is some tangible evidence that there is a problem that needs to be monitored.





Posted by Convoluted, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 11:43 am

Raise the speed limit says: "We probably should be wondering if the speed limit being too low is a problem that needs to be addressed."

The speed limit is set by the State not individual cities. On all arterials, collector and residential streets in Palo Alto the speed limit is the 85th percentile of the average speed on that individual street, and the speed limit cannot be less than 25 mph.

Yes, for the average driver this analysis of speed limits seems to be very convoluted and barely understandable but it is done this way to prevent "entrapment".

Even on residential streets the speed limit cannot go below 25 mph that too is State law. That is why we have speed table and not speed bumps because you can drive over speed tables at 25 mph.


Posted by bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Mr. Bacchetti's comments sum up the problems with data collection. And the police auditor says, "..cannot prove or disprove bias-based profiling..can produce important information..." without suggesting after 10 years, how to use the information.

Until one can show how to use these data, let's save the money and let Chief Burns use the other tools noted above to decrease or eliminate any racial profiling - if it exists.


Posted by Raise-the-Speed-Limit, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 4, 2010 at 12:29 pm

> The speed limit is set by the State not individual cities.

With all due respect .. but do you have the slightest idea what you are talking about?

The 25 mph was set in Palo Alto around 1948 by the police chief at the time, a fellow by the name of Zurcher. At the time, South PA didn't exist, and he felt that the speed limit was appropriate for the somewhat narrow streets of North PA that had been in place since before 1900, in some cases.

The State does require that cities abide by the so-called 85% rule, which effectively says that traffic tickets will only "stick" in court if a traffic survey has been conducted recently, and that violators are travelling faster than 85% of the speed of the prevailing traffic.


Posted by Raise-the-Speed-Limit, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 4, 2010 at 12:33 pm

> That is why we have speed table and not speed bumps because
> you can drive over speed tables at 25 mph.

Both have been tried here in PA. Most people seemed to prefer the speed tables, as they seem to be less "jolting".


Posted by Confused, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm

They do have someone with statisical knowlegde. My question is why don't they use her skills to analyze the data when they have someone with this level of education? Read here on page 38: Web Link
What is the police department trying to achieve if they don't allow them to interpret the data?


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