- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

RICHMOND The terrorist attacks in September resulted in Virginia state troopers issuing 33,500 fewer traffic tickets as the officers were diverted to airports, nuclear-power plants and bridge-tunnels.
The drop in tickets cost the state Literary Fund and local courts millions of dollars.
"Clearly, we need more troopers in Virginia," state police Superintendent Col. W. Gerald Massengill said yesterday.
The 75 new troopers proposed by Gov. Mark R. Warner will help, but the Department of State Police also has 200 vacancies due to attrition and retirements.
"The lack of street enforcement is a big concern to us," said state Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, Virginia Beach Republican. "Everyone wants the state police to do everything, and they have no choice but draw resources off the street."
Trooper shortages are nothing new, but the September 11 attacks in New York and Arlington County have placed new urgency on bringing state police ranks up to full strength.
The 200 vacancies out of 1,935 slots for troopers and special agents represent a shortfall of more than 10 percent.
"We've reached the point where retirements are increasing," said Col. Massengill, noting that more than 30 officers retired Jan. 1.
State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said traffic arrests or summonses handled by state troopers totaled 155,027 from Sept. 9, 2001, to the end of the year, compared with 188,522 from Sept. 10, 2000, to the end of that year, a decrease of 33,495 tickets. The agency only had figures calculated for that period.
In all of 2001, the state police issued 733,411 tickets, compared with 775,455 in 2000, a drop of 42,044.
Fines for traffic violations vary by locality and offense, but many include a base penalty of $30 for speeding, with $3 added for each mile per hour over the speed limit. Fewer tickets also mean that courts are collecting less in court costs, which is $30 per case in Fairfax County, for example.
Fines go to the state Literary Fund, which is used to build public schools.
Col. Massengill said trooper assignments are continuing at the Pentagon, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, the Surry and North Anna nuclear-power plants, and the bridge-tunnels in Hampton Roads, but "not nearly at the numbers for the first two months after September 11."
The troopers are working those jobs on their days off and are paid by the facilities they are protecting, not from state coffers.
Still, "when those troopers are doing those kind of assignments, they are not available for selective enforcement assignments, like DUI and speeding," Col. Massengill said.
Lead-footed and liquored-up drivers, however, should still be wary. Troopers on special assignment are keeping an eye out for dangerous drivers while driving the highways to and from work, Col. Massengill said.
Despite the nontraditional assignments for troopers, highway deaths after the terrorist attacks actually dropped slightly, compared with the same period last year, Col. Massengill said. He attributed that to troopers still maintaining high visibility on the highways.
Mr. Stolle, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the Senate version of the budget probably will bring the state police up to full strength, which would mean six academy claases graduating within two years.


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