Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided above is only a generalized description of speeding in residential areas. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.

Stakeholders

In addition to criminal justice agencies, the following groups have an interest in the speeding-in- residential-areas problem, and you should consider the contribution they might make to gathering information about the problem and responding to it:

  • neighborhood and business associations (these associations often receive complaints about speeding and can mobilize support from the local government);
  • local government agencies and committees that deal with traffic engineering, public transportation, planning, and noise abatement (these agencies and committees have useful data, expertise and resources); and
  • school boards, school administrators and school parent associations (these groups have special interests in protecting students' safety around schools, capacities to mobilize support and resources that they might dedicate)

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of speeding in residential areas, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate responses later on.

Crashes and Complaints

  • How many crashes occur in residential areas? How many are crashes with other vehicles? Pedestrians? Bicyclists?
  • How serious are the injuries?
  • What percentage of crashes in residential areas are speed-related?
  • How, specifically, do the speed-related crashes occur? A single vehicle's going off the road? Multiple vehicles' crashing into one another? Head-on, rear-end, side-impact crashes?
  • Are there multiple factors involved, such as speeding to make it through yellow traffic lights?
  • How many complaints do police receive about speeding in residential areas? What, specifically, do citizens complain about? Actual crashes? Fear of walking or riding? Noise?

Speeders

  • Who are the most frequent offenders? Area residents? Commuters? Visitors? Why do they say they speed? Where are they coming from? Where are they going?
  • Who are the worst offenders? How fast do they drive?

Locations/Times

  • On which specific streets or blocks is speeding a problem? On what days and at what times? (Computer mapping software can help you answer many questions about where and when the problem occurs.)
  • Is the speed limit prominently posted?
  • Is the speed limit proper for road conditions? Too high? Too low? What is the 85th-percentile speed?
  • What road conditions make speeding more likely? Can these conditions be modified?
  • Do crashes occur at intersections, on straight roads or at curves?

Current Responses

  • How much do officers conduct speed enforcement in the problem areas now? What factors determine where they conduct it? Do police conduct speed and crash studies before targeting particular locations for enforcement?
  • What is the formal or informal tolerance range before officers issue citations? What do most drivers think it is?
  • Do officers give warnings in lieu of citations? Do they officially record those warnings? What criteria do they use in deciding to give warnings?
  • Does the law allow police to use speed cameras? If so, do they use them in residential areas?
  • What are the typical fines and penalties for speeding in the problem areas? Do they seem to be meaningful consequences for offenders?
  • Have officers used speed-display boards in problem areas?
  • Do officers work closely with road and traffic engineers to establish speed limits, develop traffic-calming strategies, and identify and correct speed-related problems?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. You should take all measures in both the target area and the surrounding area. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)

Speeding, unlike so many other problems the police must address, allows for precise measurement-of speeds, crashes, causes, complaints, etc. Measures of the effectiveness of responses to speeding problems, therefore, can and should be reliable and accurate. The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to speeding in residential areas:

  • the average speeds of vehicles (taken in mid-blocks),
  • the percentage of vehicles speeding,
  • the percentage of vehicles exceeding the speed limit by various amounts,
  • the number of vehicle crashes,
  • the number of injuries vehicle crashes cause,
  • the severity of injuries vehicle crashes cause, and
  • the volume of citizen complaints about speeding.

The number of citations issued is not an appropriate measure of the your responses' impact; it merely provides information about police enforcement levels. Pay attention to your efforts' possible displacement effects: drivers may divert to adjoining areas or roads, with positive or negative results. †

† See Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 10, Analyzing Crime Displacement and Diffusion for further information.