Grant money will focus on interaction, education for safer driving
By Christopher DeGusto
During a 45-minute span on a summer afternoon, Revere Police Sargent Chris Giannino spots at least three egregious traffic violations. It’s a slow one this Wednesday, he says, and if it weren’t for The Advocate reporter sitting beside him, Giannino would have pulled over a speeding car trying to merge into a rotary, a cab that blew through a red light and a moped for illegally passing another vehicle, at the very least.
His Ford F-250 Super Duty is all-black and coated with “ghost lettering” – markings that are visible mostly during nighttime reflections. At a red light on Broadway in Revere, drivers in the adjacent lane don’t notice the officer on their right side, and roll up to a stop too preoccupied on their cellphones.
Giannino isn’t too concerned with writing tickets today, but is more focused on educating people on the roads; and a recent grant – from the Highway Safety Division of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) – given to Revere Police will allow Giannino’s Traffic Division to do just this.
“I remember getting pulled over when I was a kid. I was driving a dump truck, and the [officer] said that paper was falling out of my truck. Nothing fell out of my truck, I had my load tied down,” started Giannino. “And he wrote me up a ticket. Thirty-five years later, I remember that ticket. To this day, I’m telling you, nothing came out of my truck.”
He explained that sometimes positive reinforcement can prompt drivers to be safer on the roads. “So if I’m pulling somebody over for something, it’s something that they did, and they know they did. It’ll make them think about it, and learn from it, as opposed to ‘I’m going to go out and pull cars over because that’s what I want to do right now,’” finished Giannino.
As Giannino cuts off his story, an oil tanker drives through Copeland Circle faster than the posted speed limit, and certainly well above the advisory speed limit recommended for vehicles of that size. “If I’m down here doing enforcement on a truck, and he’s going 10 miles an hour over, he’ll get a ticket. It’s all about safety. The larger trucks they can’t stop on a dime, and they will roll over,” said Giannino.
With a total amount of $12,000 trickling in at allotted periods throughout the 2018 fiscal year, Revere Police have extra federally funded money for traffic enforcement through this grant. It was announced last week that during August and through Labor Day, a portion of the money is dedicated toward officers patrolling for impaired drivers, called the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.
The grant is broken up into segments, centered around holidays that see heavier commuting traffic, with Labor Day being the next holiday. Giannino explained that he will assign officers four-hour blocks of overtime, funded by the grant money, to enforce this campaign. Specified by the grant, time frames for stops are generally in the early to late evening around the weekend, and officers are required to make three stops of a vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian each hour.
Each stop does not have to involve a ticket, a written warning, or what could be deemed a negative connotation, according to Giannino. “It’s about education,” Giannino stresses, as he pulls back into Copeland Circle. He explains that stops can include these incidents, but also positive interactions as well. Speaking with a child on a bicycle who is not wearing a helmet is a documented stop, along with directing someone to the proper area to cross a street.
Giannino says he won’t generally ticket drivers if they are travelling a touch over the speed limit, because he wants to leave a routine stop not by knowing that a person has just spent money on a ticket, but that they were educated and correct their mistakes.
“Some people are just lost, or don’t know the area,” he explained.
With the money supplied by EOPSS, the Traffic Division can set officers up in areas they normally wouldn’t cover. Side streets that rush hour travelers use are frequent areas where drivers ignore stop signs and school zones, so Park Avenue and Malden Street are locations Giannino said he will monitor.
“My traffic guy can be out there watching the school zone and telling people, ‘There’s an officer ahead, and he’s going to be here off-and-on – slow down.’ And tomorrow, they’ll come by here a little bit slower.”
The officers stationed at areas like these cut-throughs or highly-traveled zones, such as Squire Road and Lee Burbank Highway, will not answer normal calls unless severe circumstances arise. They are essentially extra police officers on the roads due to the grant, Giannino explained, specifically assigned to areas in order to enforce the campaigns and educate those on the roads.
“If you can teach them what they’re doing wrong and talk to them in a positive way, the long run has better results,” said Giannino.