CLEVELAND — The Ohio State Highway Patrol is doing its part in trying to improve Cleveland driver behavior after it reported fatal crashes in the city reached a peak in 2020, with 66 crashes claiming the lives of 71 people.
OSHP spokesperson Sgt. Ray Santiago told News 5 his agency has now partnered with the Cleveland Police Department to create the "Service CLE" initiative, which will have additional troopers monitoring drivers in all five Cleveland police districts throughout the summer.
Santiago said the collaboration started in Cleveland's first district from May 9 through June 5, and produced results, with no traffic fatalities and just one serious injury crash.
“Those are 71 lives that are lost, that were community members, just in the city," Santiago said. “Collectively, we took a really data driven approach to what we were doing.”
He continued, “The reason for the spike in Cleveland traffic fatalities, speed, impaired driving, failure to yield and driving while distracted, but all of those had a common component. Sixty percent of those crashes had an occupant that wasn’t wearing an available safety belt.”
Sgt. Santiago said the initiative is now in Cleveland's Second District, and will be heading to the fourth district in July. Santiago said the collaborative effort is not about writing more traffic tickets.
"That increase presence isn’t necessarily just a patrol car looking for traffic violations, it’s having someone present to answer some of those questions about safety. Everyone’s always saying we’re chasing numbers, we absolutely are, and that number is zero, zero traffic fatalities. We did have over 350 traffic stops that were initiated in the first district in that specific area that was targeted, nearly half of those were non-enforcement stops. It’s about changing behaviors and keeping folks safe.”
OSHP data found accidents hot spots in all parts of the city, at West 80th Street and Lorain Road in the First District, at I-480 and Pearl Road in the Second District, East 9th Street and St. Clair Avenue in the Third District, Kinsman at Woodhill Road in the Fourth District and St. Clair at Eddy Road in the fifth district.
Ward 8 Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek applauded the partnership, and said the initiative is even more crucial as the city struggles to keep enough officers on the streets, and is having difficulty finding enough police recruits to keep up with officer retirements.
"A Cleveland police commander estimated there could be 400 who could retire or leave the department. And if they were all to leave by the end of the year, it would put us in a state of emergency," Polensek said.
“The numbers speak for themselves, you got to set the tone, you do that starting with traffic enforcement. We need more police on our streets, we need a better game plan.”
"I’m glad the Ohio Highway Patrol is coming in. We need them, we need them on our streets, we got to set that tone, and then we got to work toward bringing more men and women into this department.”