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Oxford police force nabbing speeders
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Drivers speeding through Oxford – or performing other illegal driving acts – are more likely to be pulled over in 2013, with the city’s police department back at full strength.

Oxford police officers have handed out 267 speeding tickets through June of 2013, compared with 200 during all of 2012, and other driving citations, including seat-belt violations and citations for driving on a suspended or revoked license, are also trending up significantly.

Police Chief Dave Harvey said the increase isn’t the result of any strategy but is due to the addition of a fourth full-time officer (including the chief) and overall more active officers.

"We have a full department now, and officers who want to get out and patrol and be seen and do their job," Harvey said. "We have somebody who likes to get out there and work and be proactive and try to deter crime before it happens. We have more visibility."

According to City Manager Bob Schwartz, the average speed cited on the 27 tickets written in the city’s 35 mph zones this year was 54 mph, with a high of 59 mph. In the 25 mph zone, the city had 18 tickets with an average speed of 46.2 mph and a high of 56 mph. (Harvey said the highest speed he’s seen cited in his time with the department is a 68 mph driver in the 35 mph zone of Ga. Highway 81.)

The increase in citations – and a slight increase in the pace of arrests – has been accompanied by a decline in calls for service. Through June 30, there have been 512 calls for service, compared with 1,170 in 2012.

"Anytime you have more visibility and more enforcement, that makes for a decrease in calls, because it’s more of a deterrent – that’s how I look at it," Harvey said.

The police department also has been patrolling later in the evening, up until 2 a.m. When the staff was shorthanded, the city’s officers generally stopped patrolling around 11 p.m. or midnight, when the Newton County Sheriff’s Office would take over.

"When you have more visibility, people go somewhere else (to commit crimes)," Harvey said. "We have more officers on the evening watch, so one can be patrolling the city while the other one is enforcing traffic laws."

The city hired a fourth officer in November 2012, but then lost a different officer at the end of January. Another officer was sworn in March 30.

Harvey said the two new hires – Eric Almond and Dave Stewart – along with officer James Pilgrim have been committed to actively patrolling and enforcing the law.

The officers also are giving out plenty of warnings, as they’ve issued 122 so far, in line with 2012’s 256 warnings.

The police department’s 2013-2014 budget is $317,263, according to Harvey.

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