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Local

Winter weather, staffing changes could be linked to lower statistics

Officer availability may be linked to lower traffic stops this year

The outside of the Newton Police Department with the American and Iowa state flags flowing in the background.
The outside of the Newton Police Department with the American and Iowa state flags flowing in the background.

The Newton Police Department experienced a dramatic decrease in the amount of traffic stops during the first six months of the year.

During the timeframe spanning from Jan. 1 to July 1, there were a total of 1,065 traffic stops, down from the 1,728 in 2018.

“Weather and staffing were the two main factors there,” Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess said. “We also had some transition with staffing around that same time period, so we didn’t have as many officers out there specifically working on traffic enforcement.”

As for the bad winter weather the county experienced earlier this year, Burdess said it contributed to the low numbers with officers focused more on accidents and parking tickets rather than patrolling for traffic violations.

“We had six to eight weeks of a lot of snow so the focus was not necessarily traffic enforcement. They were writing a lot of parking tickets and dealing with accidents and other things that had to do with the storms,” Burdess said.

In terms of staffing, the police department has had some changes due to retirements but also new hires who are going through the field officer training, which requires the new recruit to ride with another officer for a period of time. This means there are more officers per car and fewer cars out patrolling.

“We are doubling up in cars so that limits our exposure for traffic enforcement,” Burdess said.

While this may seem alarming it just means the department is going though a transitional period and will get back to normal after all the recent hires finish the academy and complete the training process.

“The positive thing is even though we didn’t have the numbers that we did last year, the number of accidents weren’t exceedingly higher than what we have seen,” Burdess said.

Burdess said all positions have been filled but the department has two officers currently in the academy and one who will be going in August. While this is taking away from the amount of officers that can be on the street, it will not last much longer.

“Barring any major retirements, resignations or injuries that occur over the next six months effective, Jan. 1 of 2020 all of our cops will be on the street and we will have a full staff,” Burdess said.

Contact Dustin Teays at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or dteays@newtondailynews.com

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