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April 20, 2014

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Metro busy explaining decision to quit responding to minor wrecks

Two days after announcing that officers would no longer respond to non-injury traffic accidents, Metro Police officials were out again today clarifying and explaining the new policy.

The change, which takes effect Monday, has generated a slew of questions, criticism and national media attention.

But Metro reiterated today the goal of the shift in policy is to get officers off the side of the road writing reports on fender-benders and out on the street preventing a growing number of vehicular fatalities.

“This is the second year in a row that we’ve seen significant increases involving fatal accidents,” Sgt. Todd Raybuck said, noting that last year more than 114 people died in crashes in Metro’s jurisdiction. “We have to do something.”

Officers will now focus on stepping up enforcement efforts — “a tried and true method of reducing fatalities,” Metro officials said in a news release.

Metro today also released a public service announcement that will begin running this week and has posted a fact sheet on its website answering commonly asked questions about the new policy. Metro traffic officers also will be on hand to answer questions at regular community meetings at 7 p.m. Tuesday at commands throughout the valley.

At a news conference today, Raybuck said Metro officers last year spent more than 13,000 hours on property-damage-only crashes, which made up 60 percent of the 23,000 crashes to which officers responded.

Because of the volume of calls, it can take officers up to two hours to respond to a crash and once there, they spend an average of 90 minutes filling out paperwork, Raybuck said.

There will still be cases, however, in which Metro responds to an accident, even if there isn’t an injury.

If cars are stuck in the roadway, drivers can call Metro for help. And if someone is involved in a minor crash and suspects the other driver is impaired, or if a driver refuses to cooperate, Metro also should be called.

The change is something Metro officials have been weighing for the past two years, Raybuck said. The department consulted with the Los Angeles Police Department, which also does not respond to non-injury accidents.

“This will all be beneficial if our injury accidents go down,” Officer Larry Hadfield, a Metro spokesman, said.

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