LAKEHURST – He didn’t have a name, but people complained about him sleeping on the job. Someone even brought him a box of donuts.
Mayor Harry Robbins and Business Administrator Stephen Childers recalled at a recent Borough Council meeting how the police department set up a dummy in a marked patrol car – uniform and all – and placed it strategically around Union Avenue to deter speeders.
This happened years ago, well before Eric Higgins became chief.
So, the borough got complaints that this “officer” was rude when he didn’t wave back to one resident who was trying to be friendly. People called to report that this “officer” was asleep on the job. The dummy had slumped over.
At least no one thought he was dead, or if they did, they didn’t bother reporting it.
One resident was so impressed with this “officer’s” performance, he or she left a box of a dozen donuts on the car for him. Or, maybe the resident was just being funny.
There was no empirical data to prove whether the dummy in the patrol car slowed traffic.
A concerned resident approached council at that same meeting to voice concerns over speeding along Union Avenue. His best guess was observing people going well above the posted 30- and 35-miles-per-hour limits, 25 in the school zone during school hours.
Council President Steven Oglesby said he at times purposely drives 20 miles per hour on Union, to send the message to slow down. He is thanked with various hand gestures and car horns.
Higgins said his department is well aware of the speeding problem. It’s been a problem for decades, and likely will remain a problem, as people use Union to bypass Route 70 and its traffic lights to shave a couple minutes off their drive. Traffic through the borough has more than doubled since he’s been a police officer, now in his 26th year.
“I’ve always said if I wanted to write a bunch of tickets quickly, I can sit at Brown Avenue at the Baptist church and bang out 10 speeding tickets in an hour,” Higgins said.
The department has issued 65 speeding tickets since January. Sixty of those have been issued on Union and Brown avenues.
And it’s not borough residents getting the tickets. “I don’t think it’s ever going to change,” Higgins said about both the speeding and out-of-towners using Union to bypass Route 70.
However, through the borough’s capital improvements fund, the department recently bought a speed monitoring trailer.
The trailer will provide a flashing light to alert drivers they are speeding. It will also collect data that will allow the police department to analyze trends.
Based on that data, Higgins will know if there are certain times of the day that have heavier traffic traveling across Union Avenue, and if there are times when motorists are more likely to exceed the speed limit. He can then increase police presence, even bring on officers for overtime, to issue warnings and tickets for speeding.
The speed monitoring trailer cost $7,109.