If you were traveling between the Moose River in Sterling and the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna over Memorial Day weekend, you might have seen a Homer Police Department cruiser stopping vehicles and issuing tickets.
An appropriate response of, "What the heck is that cop doing? Is he lost?" might have gone through your head. But it wasn't a mistake. Rather, it was part of a multi-jurisdictional effort between Kenai, Homer, Soldotna and the Alaska Bureau of Highway Patrol to enforce the national "Click it or ticket" mobilization.
"Our presence out there probably saved lives that weekend," said Kenai officer Jay Sjogren.
Sjogren acts as the Law Enforcement Liaison for Southcentral Alaska. As one of four liaisons in the state, Sjogren passes on information from the Alaska Highway Safety Office in Juneau, which works with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to the Kenai, Soldotna, Seward and Kodiak police departments as well as to the Alaska State Troopers E detachment in Soldotna.
Sjogren said other liasons around the state have used a multi-jurisdictional approach and found success with it. That success inspired Sjogren to bring the first multi-jurisdictional effort to the Kenai Peninsula.
"We believe our presence made a big difference," Sjogren said. "It was very well received amongst the agencies that participated. In the future, it's going to happen again."
Between May 22 and May 25, 266 officer-civilian contacts were made. A total of 151 citations were written; 133 of those were for speeding violations.
Just five seat belt citations were issued, Sjogren said. Three tickets were given to drivers not wearing a seat belt and two for passengers failing to buckle up.
Sjogren attributed the low number of seat belt violations issued to the ubiquitous "Click it or Ticket" advertisements on television and radio leading up to the holiday weekend.
The biggest impact of the extra law enforcement was it controlled speeding during the high-volume traffic weekend, Sjogren said. The stretch of road from the Moose River to the Soldotna "Y" is notorious for speeders, he said.
When other drivers see a person pulled over on the side of the road, they tend to slow down, according to Sjogren.
With no highway fatalities, the mobilization was a success, he said.
Sjogren said it was a good experience to work together with the various police departments.
"All in all, it was a very positive thing," he said.
Mike Nesper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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