Police step up school zone speed limit enforcement

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LISA BROWN

Oak Park police officers have been swooping and nabbing speedy drivers in a sting that ends this Friday. Police say they'll continue the stepped-up enforcement of the 20-mile-per-hour limit near schools while school's in session. More than 150 tickets were issued in the school zones in the past two weeks and several cars were towed when drivers failed to show proof of insurance or a driver's license. 
Dubbed the "Schools Open Traffic Safety Plan," police chose school zones notorious for speeders to implement the "wolf-pack" approach: lining up 2-6 squad cars and pulling over speeders en masse.
For example, police staked out the Oak Park Avenue and Greenfield Street intersection last Thursday from 7 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. The intersection is near a pedestrian crosswalk that's used by students from Mann School and St. Giles.
Cmdr. Anthony Ambrose said police handed out fliers to area residents and put up posters at businesses to let people know that police were keeping an eye out for speeders near schools.
"So far it's been very successful. We notice that people are obeying the speed limits and cognizant of the cars around them. The trend in recent years has been to not pay attention to speed limits in school zones," said Ambrose, surmising that the police presence near schools has led people to keep their speed in check.
Sgt. Mike Vitali also said the approach has slowed traffic near schools, making walkways safer for students. "It's mostly speeding, but also seatbelts and child carriers," he said, describing the citations issued.
Police set up a speed trailer near schools to show people how fast they're driving. Vitali said the combination of the trailer, the increased visibility of patrol cars and new bright yellow signs near crosswalks are having the desired effect. "The triple team approach will bring about a greater awareness," he said. 
Ambrose said people should expect to see more police officers near school zones. "We've rededicated ourselves to traffic, especially with all the kids now in school. Traffic enforcement will be taken seriously again," he said.
Ambrose said the wolf-pack approach has been so successful in the last week, the police department will soon use it near intersections that have a lot of traffic accidents.
"Shortly, we're going to monitor the intersections where we've seen an increase in accidents. We're reviewing all the accidents now--trends over the last couple of years," he said.

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