Friday, June 15, 2007

Weaver steps up police patrols on Alabama 21


Harold and Mary Fink, owners of Gold Post Pawn and Jewelry, are pleased about the presence of Weaver police cars patrolling from their property.

Drivers on Alabama 21 at the Anniston Beach Road intersection, however, may be less than thrilled about the increase of police presence.

“We hear tires screeching all the time at that intersection,” Mary said. “It’s just dangerous.”

The tires the Finks hear screeching are the result of a traffic light at the intersection. The speed limit is 65 mph on that part of Alabama 21, but vehicles should slow to 45 mph as they approach the intersection.

In 2004, to save money, Weaver police stopped patrolling the 1.5-mile range outside the city limits, and area known as its “police jurisdiction.” Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis said that’s still the arrangement.

“We will not leave the city limits, and I will not go back to patrolling the jurisdiction as long as I am mayor,” Willis said. “I am going to fight tooth and nail to keep Weaver police in Weaver so residents can get what they are paying for.”

Gold Post Pawn and Jewelry has been inside the city limits since May 9, 2006, when Weaver City Council annexed the property. This was done at the request of the Finks, who said police response at their business was slower when they depended on the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.

“If the alarms were to go off at night here, it would take police 30 minutes to get here,” Harold Fink said. “With Weaver, it only takes five minutes.”

The Finks said Weaver police patrol from their store about twice a week, along with state troopers and the sheriff’s department.

According to Weaver Police Chief Wayne Bush, the recent increase in Weaver cars patrolling the area is because of the “blitz period” for the Click It or Ticket campaign. The “blitz period” was a high-traffic time during the Memorial Day holiday, and the period ended June 6.

Even though the blitz is over, his patrol cars are still in the area regularly, Bush said.

“We do have roughly a 5-yard stretch of city limits, even if it takes us a couple of miles to pull them over,” he said.

Reasons beyond Bush’s control prevent the police department from patrolling outside the city limits.

“We want to police the jurisdiction, but administratively and cost-saving wise, we aren’t able to do so,” Bush said.

This wouldn’t stop Bush from allowing members of his squad to intervene in certain situations.

“If one of my cars is in the police jurisdiction and they witness drunk driving or reckless driving, they have my full support to intervene,” Bush said.

According to the City of Weaver Web site, seven traffic violations were cited along the small stretch of Alabama 21 in April, ranging from DUI to revoked licenses. May violations have not been posted yet.

“We are trying to make a difference at that dangerous intersection,” Bush said.

For Mary Fink, the solution for a safer intersection is simple.

“They should lower the speed limit to 55 mph instead of 65,” Mary said. “It’s just too fast on that road anyway.”