Two law enforcement agencies are turning up the heat on Loop 101 this summer, targeting speeders and bad drivers on the East Valley freeway in an attempt to reduce crashes.
For the next 60 days, a beefed-up patrol of Arizona Department of Public Safety officers will be joined by Maricopa County sheriff ’s deputies in a clampdown from Scottsdale Road to the Loop 202 interchange.
The stretch of freeway has been the scene of multiple fatal crashes and, authorities said, a rising number of collisions in the last few years.
"These are highways, they are not speedways," said Richard Fimbres, director of the Arizona G overnor’s Office of Highway Safety, during a news conference Wednesday to announce the operation.
Scottsdale police, who patrol Loop 101 once a month, is not involved, said Scottsdale detective Sam Bailey.
"We don’t have our guys out there every day. We have our responsibilities in the city," he said. "Normally that’s DPS’ jurisdiction. We have an interest out there because a lot of our Scottsdale residents use it."
Police kicked off the notolerance Maximum Impact campaign Wednesday morning at the Scottsdale 101 shopping center at Scottsdale Road and Loop 101 to lower the number of crashes and unsafe driving on the roughly 20-mile stretch.
The additional officers will be targeting excessive speeding along with aggressive driving, drivers following too close, unsafe lane changes and other traffic violations.
"We get a lot of complaints from the community about how you go 65 out there and it’s a joke," DPS Lt. Tim Lane said of the excessive speeding.
The number of Loop 101 crashes have increased in the past few years from an estimated 1,200 in 2001 to about 4,600 in 2004, he said.
DPS is adding four to eight motorcycle officers 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to those who already patrol the area, Lane said. Other motorcycle officers may start as early as 3:30 or 4 a.m., he said.
The sheriff ’s office will chip in two or three motorcycle deputies for the next two months. Also helping out will be the sheriff’s posse, lake patrol, SWAT and other deputies, said sheriff’s Lt. Paul Chagolla.
Officers will be prepared for the hunt with radar guns and speed-detecting lasers, authorities said.
In the last 90 days, 1,400 drivers have received tickets on Loop 101 from Scottsdale to McKellips roads, and the highest speed clocked was 137 mph, Lane said.
DPS officer Dion Zamora, who normally patrols Loop 101 in Scottsdale to Interstate 17, stopped two people for speeding during the operation Wednesday from 11 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m.
Zamora noted that drivers were already getting the hint to slow down.
"Usually you see cars fly by," he said, looking up at the freeway from an underpass at the 56th Street intersection.
Zamora pulled onto the freeway and soon stopped Vikas Sood of Phoenix for going 80 mph. The taxi driver’s customer waited as Zamora wrote a ticket.
Zamora said he’s patrolled Phoenix for about 3 1 /2 years and watched the growth in the area.
He recently responded to four collisions in about three hours in north Scottsdale and Phoenix, he said.
"There’s no patience," he said. "Even when we make stops, they want us to give them their tickets quickly."
Another driver, Tempe resident Lee Williams, 52, was on his way to Tempe when Zamora stopped him. Zamora’s radar gun showed 80 mph at first, then it slowed to 72.
"There was too much traffic (for me) to be speeding, in my opinion," said Williams, who said he noticed a greater police presence in the area just before getting stopped.