Greenville Police cracking down on drivers running red lights

A Dangerous Problem

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) - Too many drivers run red lights in Greenville.

It's a problem acknowledged by Greenville city leaders, police officers and engineers.

"It offends me because I'm a user too," Greenville traffic engineer Rik DiCesare said. "I respect everybody has to travel through these grids and these networks."

The city is discussing multiple solutions to stop people from running red lights including a social media campaign and cameras.

Getting Out the Vote

Tens of thousands of drivers pass through Greenville's Memorial Drive and Arlington Boulevard on a daily basis.

Police officers say many of them run the red lights; particularly cars making a left turn from Memorial Drive to travel west on Arlington Blvd.

"We get complaints often," Traffic Safety Unit Sgt. Mike Montanye said. "Specifically about this intersection."

On a cold, rainy Thursday morning, Sgt. Montanye and his five traffic unit officers, four of them on motorcycles, are catching red light runners.

Sgt. Montanye's positioned by the gas station at the southwest corner of the intersection.

He focuses on drivers making the left turn onto Arlington Boulevard.

He calls out cars, he sees, running red lights on the radio to his motorcycle officers positioned further down Arlington Boulevard.

His officers are quickly overwhelmed.

"I've got five officers and of the five officers, the only one that I have available right now is the one that's going to be just north of us on Memorial," Sgt. Montanye said. "It's clear that we have a problem at this intersection with red light running."

It's why Sgt. Montanye and his department are launching a Facebook campaign for drivers to vote on the next intersection his unit will patrol.

Their posts have received hundreds of likes, shares and comments.

"Let [citizens] buy into this project that we're working on and see where they want us to work," Sgt. Montanye said.

The Eye in the Sky

Greenville traffic engineer Rik DiCesare's traffic cameras capture every car traveling through intersections throughout the city including cars running red lights.

On a Tuesday afternoon in February, Greenville Police reported a car with a green light was making a left turn out of Greenville Mall's driveway when a driver in a Jeep traveling southwest on Greenville Boulevard ran the red light.

One of DiCesare's traffic cameras recorded the accident.

Police say only one person suffered minor injuries while the Jeep driver received a stoplight violation.

"It's driver habit; it's behavior," DiCesare said about red light running. "Trends that we're trying to change."

One way to change the trends is red light cameras.

DiCesare, other members of city public works and the police department are sifting through data to determine five possible sites for red light cameras.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said state law allows only a few cities, including Greenville, to operate cameras.

City councilman Rick Smiley said he and other drivers support the idea.

"It seems to be about the only way to get people to actually not run red lights," Smiley said.

It's a multi-step process expected to take time before the sites are determined.

The Right Place at the Right Time

While red light cameras are still debated, Sgt. Montanye and his traffic safety unit plan to continue their social media campaign.

The difference between a camera and police presence can ultimately stop serious crimes.

While they were pulling over drivers at Memorial Drive and Arlington Boulevard, officers say they watched a woman turning south onto Memorial Drive go over the median and hit a car before taking off.

Officer Jodie Cobb chases after her.

It safely ends at Memorial Drive and Greenville Boulevard with the driver facing multiple charges including DWI and hit and run.

"It worked out that the light caught her. The very same thing we were working," Ofc. Cobb said. "[The] traffic light ended up stopping her so that we could get her out of the vehicle."

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