Plant City Police Department recently spent a week heavily enforcing speeding in the community to help curb one of the most common complaints among Walden Lake residents
For decades, residents of Walden Lake have complained about speeders using roads in the community as a thoroughfare to the other side of town. It’s a complaint PCPD said they’ve continued to tackle, and despite frequent traffic stops, the calls keep coming in.
“PCPD had over the years and recently received multiple complaints about speeders and people using Walden Lake as a cut through,” Sgt. Al Van Duyne said. “We use our enforcement to target that and garnered the data from those stops to determine what was really going on.”
A team of officers dedicated a week, approximately 25 hours, to heavily monitoring Walden Lake, pulling over those going well above the limit. Van Duyne said officers work with leniency. If someone is going five or six miles above the posted 30 mile per hour limit they weren’t citing them, however, once people began to fly past and go above 40 miles per hour they quickly got into motion.
Van Duyne said there were even a few reckless drivers going more than 50 miles per hour on the winding roads. In the week the officers gave out 28 written warnings, 16 were issued to Walden Lake residents. They also gave out 24 traffic citations, 15 of which were issued to Walden Lake residents.
Originally PCPD was hoping to use a radar unit that would be left out for the entire time to monitor the speeds of every car coming toward and driving away from the machine. However, due to a variety of conditions including the curving and narrow roads, the unit was not able to get an accurate count. So the final analysis was entirely collected and based off the data from the traffic stops of the officers in Walden Lake.
“There weren’t many major speeders, just maybe one or two of those,” Van Duyne said. “Our biggest take away is, we’re not trying to beat people up and hammer them, but when we do enforcement we tend to concede a little before we even pull people over. The speed limit is 30 (mph) and if you’re driving a safe speed we will probably let you be. If you don’t we’re not pulling you over just to be strict, we’re doing it for safety.”
Officers still had to split their time enforcing the limit in the community with calls they received for other areas of the city. However, the teams were on site during the early and late morning, right after school and during the evening when commuters would be returning from work.
Driving recklessly though the community is dangerous for more than just the at fault drivers. Van Duyne said he understands why residents worry about speeding being an issue, what with the variety of walking trails that joggers and walkers frequent, the golf cart paths and the parks and pathways that many take their young children, grandchildren or even their pets to enjoy.
The roads themselves are not designed for speeding cars. Every once in a while PCPD has to respond to calls where there have been accidents on Timberlane due to the driver going off the road due to excessive speeding, bad weather or simply not paying attention and missing a curve at night.
“You’ve got to slow down and take your time when you’re driving through there,” Van Duyne said. “So many of the accidents we’re called out to could have been easily avoided had the driver been doing what they’re supposed to.”
The data, however, didn’t indicate the culprits of the speeding were entirely those “cutting through” Walden Lake. It’s a complaint a large portion of the residents frequently cite. Whether in calls to the police, posts on the Nextdoor app, long protests on Facebook or even calls to the Plant City Observer, residents have frequently expressed the belief the speeders are those who live elsewhere and are using the long and winding roads as some sort of shortcut to the other side of town.
Van Duyne said whenever someone is stopped for speeding their data is collected by the police. By analyzing that data he was able determine where each heavy-footed driver lives. When all was said and done, the majority of the reckless drivers had addresses right there in the community.
“I had a preconceived notion that was going to be the case because I’ve worked here for 20 years,” Van Duyne said. “Over the years as a line officer pulling people over and then as a sergeant dealing with the people that call me after they’ve gotten a ticket, I’ve kind of been able to create this map in my head of what was going on. Many of those people have lived in Plant City or Walden Lake. To their credit, it’s not hard to go over the speed limit. You look down and think you’re going 35 (mph) and you’re actually doing 48 (mph). I get that, but then again, in a residential area you have to be cognizant of that. You have to drive safe to keep others safe.”