MORRIS — Its efforts to target traffic stops and prevent reckless driving have earned the Grundy County Sheriff's Department top honors from a statewide competition between several law enforcement agencies.
The department placed first in its division for the 2013 Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge and won the Rookie of the Year award among all eligible departments statewide. Last year marked Grundy's first time entering the statewide competition.
"It's an unbelievable honor to our staff because they do work hard at keeping the roads safe," Grundy County Sheriff Kevin Callahan said. "I'm very proud of the men and women who go out there every day to enforce the law and keep the people of Grundy County safe."
Winning agencies were chosen based on several criteria including participation in recognition programs, creativity and innovation, public education and outreach, and the quality of application submitted.
The judges also reviewed traffic crash stats from each agency's district to gauge how effective their enforcement has been.
"This is not about who writes the most traffic tickets," said Scott Kristiansen, program director for the Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge. "It's about who has the most comprehensive program."
The competition targets three traffic safety priorities: speed enforcement, impaired driving and occupant protection. Kristiansen said those three violations are the main contributing causes to traffic fatalities.
"We focus on those violations to help reduce the number and severity of those types of crashes," Kristiansen said.
According to Kristiansen, the Grundy County Sheriff's Department analyzed its traffic crash data to identify key areas where accidents are most common. Based on the data, those areas were made priorities for traffic deputies.
Kristiansen called Grundy County's enforcement and service exceptional.
"They could very easily have their deputies sit out on some country road and write tickets all day, but that's not what they're doing," Kristiansen said. "They're actually targeting those high crash areas to help lower traffic crashes."
Callahan said using data-driven enforcement has been a priority for the sheriff's department for several years. He credited Administrative Sgt. Tanya Paquette for not only compiling the department's extensive application, but for keeping on top of the county's data and statistics.
"She stays on top of the statistics and does a fabulous job," Callahan said. "She's worked very hard and I'm really proud of her."
The sheriff's department will be recognized for its accomplishments later this fall at the Midwest Security and Police Expo.
Kristiansen said at the end of the day, the "friendly competition" that is the safety challenge is about saving lives.
"It shows the citizens that these deputies aren't just out writing tickets," Kristiansen said. "They're doing enforcement with a purpose."