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9:48 PM Sun, Nov. 18th

Communication, not donuts, is key to safety

Along Williamson Valley Road, in the past seven-plus years of driving the corridor, I have rarely seen local, working law enforcement.

I am defining "working" as deputies conducting speed enforcement, such as with a radar gun, or stopping someone and writing a ticket. I wanted to say "never," yet "rarely" is more fair; however, I do not recall ever seeing one "working." As a side note, I have seen deputies or sheriff's cars on Williamson Valley Road, but only when they're driving or parked at the fire station.

Who cares? Consider this: "Generally speaking, if you have wider roads, speed increases," Sheriff Steve Waugh told me last week while commenting on the proposed widening of Williamson Valley Road.

Supervisor Carol Springer and the county have plans to widen Williamson Valley Road to five lanes ­ two in each direction with a middle turn lane. Currently it stands at two lanes ­ one in each direction.

Let's see, little to no law enforcement now Š wider roads Š speed increases Š we have a problem, folks.

My complaint with safety along the corridor ­ emphasizing no matter what its width ­ depends on law enforcement. For example, I have seen many vehicles on many occasions passing others as though the world were coming to an end.

Having spied an empty patrol car always sitting at the fire station at Outer Loop Road (Waugh says that is a "Volunteers In Protection" car), I suggested that he use extra cars as "ghost cars." That would amount to parking an unused patrol car in the area, giving drivers pause, and following it up with a deputy in the same spot ­ say, on the third or fourth day.

After drivers have figured out that the car they've been seeing is empty, the shock they experience at seeing a deputy pointing a radar gun at them obviously would decrease speeding. I saw it work in Lake Havasu City in the early '90s.

However, Waugh told me that while he was working in Las Vegas, a community to the south ­ Boulder City ­ tried that. Police there even added a mannequin for good measure. Get this: "It didn't work. Š (People) would leave a box of Winchell's donuts on the hood," he said.

(Smile.)

OK, then what about the campaign promises Waugh made? You know, an increased law enforcement presence in Williamson Valley? Simply put, he is working on it. "My priority is patrol," he said, adding that recent shifts in patrols, districts and resources are helping.

One problem standing in his way, however, revolves around vacancies. Seems Waugh started in January with six open positions, and now he is down 11 deputies. Eight people in the academy and "some lateral moves ahead, will help fill those voids," he said.

Also, the sheriff's office works from three districts ­ southern, eastern and northern ­ with each closely mirroring the supervisors' districts. Of those the southern district is the busiest, and the northern has the fewest calls. And, that's right, Williamson Valley is in the northern district.

How can Williamson Valley get more attention? The promise Waugh made, he said, is that when a community identifies a problem he will "shift resources to those hot spots."

Waugh added that Williamson Valley Road has been the site of some radar and speed zoning, and those efforts are on rotation with other areas such as Paulden and Black Canyon City.

So, if you want more patrols on Williamson Valley Road, you need to give the sheriff an earful.

They call it communication.

Otherwise, a wider Williamson Valley Road ­ no matter the plan (two, three, four or five lanes) ­ will not make a difference to speed or safety.

Put another way: To get the attention you want, sometimes one has to make some noise.

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PARTING SHOT ­ And, on that note, you'll love next week's conclusion to this road saga: let's call it "logic versus love" Š and the future.