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Two city roadblocks yield 45 tickets, 6 arrests

Vicksburg police officers stop driver traveling north on U.S. 61 near Old Cain Ridge Road Monday morning (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[02/13/01]Vicksburg police are staffing roadblocks all week to check for properly restrained children riding in vehicles, said Lt. David Beard, head of the department’s traffic division.

The first team was in the northbound lanes of U.S. 61 South near its intersection with Old Cain Ridge Road Monday morning. On Monday afternoon a roadblock was set up at Indiana Avenue and Porters Chapel Road.

Insurance checks are not supposed to be on the agenda, despite the state law that went into effect Jan. 1. Just as in seat belt usage cases, no insurance is a “secondary offense,” meaning officers are not empowered to write citations unless the person has been stopped for a separate violation.

“It’s National Child Passenger Safety Week,” Beard said, explaining the focus of roadblocks. Officers are checking on compliance with laws dealing with the proper use of child restraints and seatbelts.

Police and the Vicksburg Fire Department put on a similar check Feb. 2 in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart SuperCenter, checking for infant seats that have been recalled by the manufacturer. They found 15 recalled seats in the 30 that were checked. The recalled seats were replaced and destroyed.

Beard and a team of officers who were being paid overtime for the special emphasis through a $10,000 federal grant also looked for other violations.

“You know, driver’s licenses, expired tags, inspection stickers, things like that,” Beard said.

But at the same time, the officers were checking for outstanding warrants and other violations.

Beard said by the end of the afternoon, the team had arrested six people, five on misdemeanor warrants and one on a felony warrant from the Narcotics Division. They had written about 45 tickets for a variety of violations such as no driver’s license, expired driver’s license, suspended driver’s license, no tag, expired tag, violations of the child restraint laws, no seat belt and no proof of insurance.

“A lot of the people have been voluntarily showing us their insurance cards,” he added.

The new Mississippi insurance law says motorists must purchase a minimal liability policy and be able to prove it by showing a card.

Earlier this year, tickets written by a Vicksburg officer were voided after Police Chief Mitchell Dent said the law clearly says officers cannot conduct insurance card roadblocks or even write a ticket unless the person was stopped for another violation.

A driver who doesn’t have a policy can be fined $1,000. A driver who doesn’t have a card, but does have a policy or buys one before the court date can be fined $100.

At least one motorist stopped at the U.S. 61 roadblock said that’s all she was asked for was an insurance card.

“All he said was I need to see your proof of insurance,'” said Martha Holman, a resident of 3577 U.S. 61 South. “They didn’t even ask for my driver’s license.”

When asked about the situation and told Holman was driving her son-in-law’s vehicle registered in Alabama, Beard said that could have been the reason for the question.

Beard said this week’s series of roadblocks is the fourth the department has been able to put on with the federal grant. The first three were last year around Memorial Day, around Labor Day and around Thanksgiving.

Beard also said the placing and scheduling of the roadblocks is not random. Before setting up a roadblock, he and some other officers go to different areas and observe for some particular violation. Once the survey is complete, the results are analyzed to determine areas with high numbers of violations.

The next step in the process is to go to those areas for a couple of weeks and hand out literature and brochures.

The education phase is then followed by enforcement roadblocks, which are followed by another survey period to see if the education and enforcement had any effect.

“Vicksburg and Warren County have a compliance rate of between 50 percent and 55 percent. The state hardly approached 50 percent,” Beard said, adding that local compliance with child restraint laws is about 60 percent.