FRANCESTOWN — Special patrols funded through a state grant have been so successful that Francestown Police Chief Stephen Bell said finding speeders in town is getting harder.
This year, the police department received $4,471 in traffic enforcement funds, and $5,962 to go after drunk drivers. The grants, given through the state Highway Safety Agency, help augment Bell's $140,000 operating budget by allowing targeted patrols on Francestown's roadways.
"The grants are helping us do patrols we don't usually have time to do because we're such a small department," said Bell.
The grants are set up to run at specific periods of time and have requirements regarding the days and times the patrols must be operated, said Bell. This round of grants can be used from April until mid-September and Bell has been able to coordinate with surrounding towns, which also received the grants, to create a concentrated police presence that serves as a warning to drivers. The result has been fewer speeders in town, said Bell.
"Speeders are becoming harder and harder to find," he said. "All these towns that have gotten the grants have been able to hit the road really hard, and it's having an effect."
Bell also believes that the economy has had an impact on the number of speeders netted in his small town.
"The traffic pattern has changed over the last few years, and my theory is that parents don't have the money to buy that extra car," he said. "And the kids aren't getting jobs so they can't afford to drive around just willy-nilly."
The rules that apply to the grants have limited the effectiveness of some of the DWI patrols because they have officers out in the early-morning hours. Though that kind of targeted patrol may be productive in bigger towns and cities where there are bars, in Francestown at 3 a.m. officers are lucky if they see somebody out delivering papers, Bell said.
Bell would also like to be able to use the grants during the winter months, which for Francestown is the busy season because of the Crotched Mountain Ski Area. Though many communities in New Hampshire experience a surge in traffic from summer tourists, in Francestown the surge comes when the snow flies.
"We're trying to figure out how to get the grants to cover the winter months," said Bell. "That's when we're the busiest."