Motorcycle patrols thought to contribute most to increase in stops made at city's busiest intersection

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - The addition of a motorcycle officer on traffic patrol -- like these in downtown Portland -- is a new element in Wilsonville and is thought to have contributed to a spike in traffic stops due to the mobility of the vehicle.  According to recent statistics, traffic stops in Wilsonville are accelerating.

A statistical analysis provided by the City of Wilsonville at a recent City Council meeting show that traffic stops in the city increased from 257 in October of 2016 to 406 in October of 2017 — also a meteoric climb from the 2016 monthly average of 290.7 traffic stops.

Wilsonville Police Chief Rob Wurpes explained the uptick as a product of the addition of a part-time traffic enforcement officer as well as the police department's more laser-like focus on traffic enforcement.

According to Wurpes, motorcycles navigate congested areas more nimbly and thus enforce traffic better than officers driving police cars.

"I can't tell you with certainty but implementing a motorcycle is big. Particularly during rush hour times, a motorcycle can navigate to places a car cannot," he said. "It's also that we're listening to the public. The most frequent complaints we get are related to driving. We've done a lot more patrol work focused on traffic enforcement."

Wurpes also attributes collaborative efforts in which officers from other municipalities such as Sherwood, Tualatin and Lake Oswego help out with traffic enforcement at various times.

This program was initiated in late 2017. Officers conducted a detail on Wilsonville Road near the I-5 exits in December and made a total of 89 stops

"In that particular intersection it's a volume problem. Enforcement is only part of that problem. We want to do our part to do as much as we can to smooth that out," Wurpes said.

Wilsonville's 2017 data shows that cell phone infractions were up 335 percent from 2016 (likely due to the new law tightening restrictions of cell phone use while driving that came into effect last year), parking violations were up 26 percent, failure to comply with a traffic device was up 91 percent, and federal and state trucking regulation violations were up 430 percent.

"The cellphone thing has been big. There's been a lot of media campaigns and demand we enforce it. It's obviously dangerous so officers have been paying a lot more attention to that," Wurpes said.

Traffic stop numbers could rise even more when the City's full-time traffic enforcement officer enters the fray in March. Wurpes hopes increased stops lead to law abidance.

"I would expect to see an increase in citations followed by an increase in compliance, which is really what we're looking for," he said.

Wurpes said if traffic stops become excessive, citizens will send their ire to Wilsonville City Council and changes will be considered. However, he says it's too early to make any declarations about traffic enforcement.

"We're going to wait and then analyze the results. We need to see, 'Is this giving us the desired outcome we want?' 'Is the public satisfied?' It's far too soon to give you an answer. It's important for us to look at the results," Wurpes said.

The new officer will also spend time watching for driving under the influence violations. And the traffic enforcement officers will spread their work hours to maximize enforcement.

"Driving under the influence is dangerous and kills a significant amount of people every year — pedestrians, passengers. It's a good idea for any agency to have an eye on," Wurpes said.