By Ross Markman
His home in Highland Park is situated on what he calls a drag strip and the city calls Grant Avenue. At times, the man said, he hears cars several blocks away speeding up his street with his front door closed.
Monday night, Dave Vaughn was one of three Havre residents to attend a police and fire committee meeting at City Hall to address the issue of speeding on neighborhood streets.
"There's a lot of it that goes on in the Highland Park area," he told Police Chief Kevin Olson and the four city council members in attendance. "There's a lot of it that goes on in Havre."
The meeting was called by City Council President Rick Pierson, who said he's recently heard concerns from the public about cars exceeding the speed limit in Havre.
"By no means is this a headhunt or a crusade to get our police department to write a bunch of tickets," Pierson said. "We're just asking people to slow down."
The best medicine to curtail speeders, Olson said, is simply for motorists to be aware of the speed limit and to slow down.
I have no long-term solutions. I feel we're doing the best we're able to do with our available resources," Olson said.
Although the force has 19 officers, Olson said, the department typically keeps only two or three on duty one doing paperwork or investigative work in the office, the others patrolling the streets.
"I think our officers make a conscious effort to work the traffic violations," he said. "I think the majority of (drivers) do a very good job. Unfortunately, they're overshadowed by a few violators."
Vaughn suggested the department be less lenient to speeding violators, who are sometimes issued a verbal or written warning by the officer.
"They're breaking the law. They should get a ticket," he said. "If that's what the law is, I don't see any problem with enforcing it."
Not warning people, Olson said, is not the answer.
"Warnings are an essential part of law enforcement. I don't think that going to a stance of no warnings is the solution," he said. "Traffic violations are traffic violations. They're not made to be felonies."
Another resident suggested lowering speed limits or increasing fine amounts. The maximum speed in Havre's residential areas is 25 mph. It's upped to 35 mph near the Great Northern Inn heading east on U.S. Highway 2 and going west past Tire-Rama on Highway 2. School zones are designated 15 mph.
One potential solution that could alleviate some of the problem, Olson said, is citizen participation in the law. If someone witnesses a violation of the law, he or she can file and sign a complaint, which must include the vehicle's license plate number and a description of the driver.
"We understand the manpower problem. We understand the money problem," Pierson said. "Maybe it's the duty of the public to turn people in."