Local officers handle traffic duty Saturday night while public parties
PRESCOTT Prescott Police Officer Nathan Barto clocks a motorist at 62 mph 14 mph above the speed limit heading west on Highway 69 near Frontier Village shopping center minutes before 10 p.m. Saturday.
"This Jeep is going to get a ticket," Barto, a 4.5-year member of the force, told a Daily Courier reporter who accompanied him on the New Year's Eve "saturation" patrol.
Barto turns around on the highway, reaches speeds of 74 mph and activates his lights to signal to the motorist to stop. The driver pulls to the side of the highway across from the western end of the shopping center.
He approaches the driver as he holds a flashlight under his arm. He writes a traffic ticket for speeding, and lets the female driver go about seven minutes after he stopped her.
He returns to his vehicle and enters the incident in his logbook.
"She did not know she was going that fast," Barto said of the 18-year-old.
Barto, a Prescott native who admits to receiving a ticket 10 or 11 years ago, said that he informed the woman about traffic school, however, she said she was ineligible, apparently because she received a ticket within the past two years.
During a two-hour, 15-minute period in which the reporter accompanied him, Barto cited two motorists, issued warnings to two other drivers, stopped another motorist and took an accused drunken driver to the police station to undergo sobriety tests.
Barto was among several officers taking part from about 8:30 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. an hour after "last call" in the bars Sunday in the Tri-City DUI Task Force during the busiest evening and early morning of revelry of the year. The Prescott Police Department administers the grant-funded task force.
Officers from the Chino Valley and Prescott Valley police departments, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, the Yavapai-Prescott Tribal Police, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control also took part in the saturation patrol.
The officers met with members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving shortly after 8 p.m. in a break room at the Prescott Police Department.
Prescott Police Sgt. Rich Gill advised representatives from other law enforcement agencies to call in their stats Sunday morning.
"Don't leave them with dispatch," Gill said. "Don't fax them."
He hands out log sheets in which the officers could indicate the nature of arrests and citations. He explains that officers from the various agencies would patrol in their own jurisdictions, and would go as far as the Verde Valley.
The officers grabbed a quick meal of Mexican fast food, doughnuts and soft drinks before going on patrol.
Barto, who transferred from patrol to traffic duty this past April, pulls out of the station at 8:45 p.m.
A voice on his police radio reports a hit-and-run that started in the parking lot of a convenience store on Grove Avenue. He pulls into the parking lot, and questions a man in the driver's seat of a Ford Taurus.
Barto said that the hit-and-run motorist allegedly struck the driver in the parking lot, but he does not want to press charges.
State liquor officers report the incident, Barto explained later.
Barto activates his lights for the first time at 9 p.m. Saturday when he observes only one headlight functioning on a Nissan Pathfinder near the intersection of Montezuma and Merritt streets. He warns the driver but does not cite him.
Barto continues on Merritt toward its intersection with Lincoln Street, where police have pulled over a Dodge Stratus that allegedly struck a parked vehicle. Two young men appear in handcuffs.
He takes the driver, who wore dark shades and tan pants, to the back of his vehicle, and drives him back to the station. Another officer takes the passenger to the Yavapai County Jail.
The driver, who allegedly ran a stop sign at Dameron and Whipple streets, faces charges of reckless driving and DUI, Barto said.
"Step right out," Barto tells the suspect after arriving at the station.
Barto returns to the streets, and pulls over a Dodge truck in the 600 block of Miller Valley Road at 9:27 p.m. The driver was going 44 mph in a 30 mph zone.
He explained afterward that he did not cite the driver for speeding because his threshold is 15 mph above the speed limit.
"Each officer has a preference for what they write tickets," Barto said.
Later on, Barto pulls over the driver of a Toyota Camry at Holiday Drive off Highway 69 because the motorist was swerving. He finds out that the motorist tried to prevent bags of groceries from falling on the floor.
Another driver whom Barto stops is an 18-year-old Hispanic male tooling around in a Ford Explorer on Grove Avenue, but he does not get off as easily. Barto pulled the man over at 10:20 p.m. because he drove erratically.
The driver gets out of the vehicle, and shivers in his tank top during a windy night with temperatures in the 40s.
Police Sgt. Amy Bonney arrives shortly afterward and questions the driver. He shows her his wallet, and smiles throughout most of the questioning.
Bonney returns the wallet to the man, retrieves a brown pullover coat from the vehicle and hands it to him. She also places the keys on the hood of Barto's vehicle.
Meanwhile, Barto radios in a description of the driver and his vehicle.
The driver, holding a plastic grocery bag, walks across Sheldon and disappears into the darkness. Both Bonney and Barto search the vehicle.
A tow truck driver arrives at 10:57 p.m. Barto said the driver of the Ford Explorer kept saying that he was born in 1992.
Barto cites the motorist for lacking a driver's license, registration and insurance, and for stopping in the middle of the road. He was driving another man's car, and so he walked home.
Because the driver did not speak English, Barto said that he contacted Bonney, who is bilingual.
"He just had no clue how to drive," Barto said. "He said he was going to buy a license. The sergeant (Bonney) said, 'You can't buy a license.'"