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Beverly, Salem lawn sign program aims to keep speed in check

A lawn sign urging motorists to slow down is part of a collaboration by Beverly police and neighborhood residents.

A lawn sign urging motorists to slow down is part of a collaboration by Beverly police and neighborhood residents.

The signs have popped up in clusters in Beverly neighborhoods.

“You speed. You pay,” they read. The message is punctuated by a frowning version of the iconic “smiley face.” On the street, the message is reinforced by police cruisers enforcing traffic laws.

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Borrowing an idea from neighboring Salem, the city launched a lawn sign campaign in late June aimed at creating more mindfulness of the speed limit. In simple terms, the signs provide motorists with a reminder that speeding might cost them money, and frequently there is a traffic enforcement unit waiting not too far down the road.

A few weeks into the pilot initiative, the results are promising.

“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback,” said Sergeant Russ Rollins,  who runs the traffic division for the Beverly department. “From people who are typically sending me complaint-type e-mails, I’m getting positive e-mails saying they believe the program has had an effect on slowing down cars in their neighborhood.”

Credit for the program goes to the city’s Community Advisory Council,  a volunteer board created to foster communication between residents and police. Its major focus is on health and safety and quality of life, said chairman Bob Broudo. 

“Every time we go back to that theme, the issues of traffic and speeding come up, in all different areas of the city,” said Broudo, who is also headmaster at the Landmark School, which donated the 100 signs. “The Police Department does a great job with the resources they have; they simply don’t have enough resources to cover all of these sections and do what they’d like to do. This was a strategy to work with the Police Department to try to help raise consciousness and make a difference.”

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The goal is to create mindfulness among drivers.

“It makes people think, and slows them down,’’ said Police Chief Mark Ray, who credits Salem with developing a lawn sign program last year. “Our traffic enforcement works pretty well, but this adds citizens as part of that. It’s a force multiplier that builds our resources. As people slow down, it makes it safer across the community.’’

Lawn sign campaigns have been used to reduce speeding elsewhere in the country, but the Salem campaign was the only other one that Ray was aware of, and Salem police say that Beverly is the only department to reach out for advice on starting its own program.

Based on the program’s success, Salem this year ordered an additional 500 “Go fast. Get fined” signs, available to residents through the mayor’s office or neighborhood associations. Similar to Beverly, the initiative began with neighborhood meetings, where speeding was a primary concern.

In Salem, the program has focused on neighborhoods off the main drags, which are often used as cut-throughs by motorists. Captain Brian Gilligan  lives on one such street, and often witnesses people speeding.

He noted that the goal of the programs is to make motorists mindful of their situation and its consequences.

“People fly down the street like you wouldn’t believe,” he said. “It’s not that they’re bad people; they just have places to go and are not thinking about things like kids playing in the street. By putting up all the signs, the hope is that people are going to read them and start thinking. Coupled with law enforcement measures, maybe we can change their attitude.”

The program was both initiated and embraced by residents, as witnessed by the number of signs displayed in streets where the program is run.

“When the signs first came out, you’d have thought it was election season based on the number that were out there,” Gilligan said.

Police Lieutenant Robert Preczew­ski,  who heads up the Salem department’s traffic enforcement unit, calls it “a united front against speeding.”

As of a recent count, there had been 623 tickets written for various violations going back to the start of the program.

“The neighborhoods in the city demanded enforcement, so we’re providing what the citizens want,” Preczewski said.

Beverly resident Frank Faustino,  who has a lawn sign,  said that they have had an impact, particularly when they first went up.

“You could see people slowing down” as they saw the signs, he said.

While the Beverly and Salem programs are similar, there are also differences. Both are resident-driven and both have law enforcement components. However, in Beverly, Rollins will e-mail residents when increased enforcement is scheduled for their neighborhood, and ask that the signs go up, and then come down.

In Salem, the neighborhoods tend to leave the signs up throughout the year, and there is no additional sign presence on days of increased enforcement.

“You never know where we’re going to be,” Preczewski said. “You just know we’re going to be there.”

For more information or to request a sign in Beverly, e-mail RRollins@Beverlyma.gov.

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