Most inquiries to the Traffic Desk come by email, but occasionally one pours in via cellphone.
Like the one last week from a dedicated reader driving along Interstate 630. Dang, he said, the Arkansas State Police are out here en masse, with drivers pulled over on both sides.
What, he asked, is going on?
We looked in the next day's newspaper but saw nothing related. So we asked Bill Sadler, the agency's venerable spokesman, this question: What was up with that?
Short answer: Saturation patrols.
Turns out that troopers in Troop A turned out to saturate Interstate 40 in Pulaski, Saline and Faulkner counties. With another team saturating I-630, from which our caller made contact.
The results of these saturation patrols include 23 tickets for speeding, 13 warnings for speeding, three tickets for violations of the state law mandating seatbelt use, 13 hazardous driving citations, and eight criminal arrests. More about these criminal arrests later, plus an observation.
We asked Sadler about the philosophy and purpose of saturation patrols.
The logic, he said, is to maximize patrol resources based on data that indicates a higher-than-normal occurrence of dangerous and reckless driving on a particular highway. Such driving often leads to crashes that expose people to injury or death.
This logic should resonate with the several of our readers who regularly drive on I-630, and who have expressed to us this: Holy cow! People drive fast on the Wilbur Mills Freeway, aka The Speedway.
Back to Sadler.
A saturation patrol, he said, usually involves four to six troopers in close proximity on a particular stretch of highway. Based on data to choose an exact day of the week and time of day, troopers look for violations similar to those that contributed to previous crashes or endangerment. Also, troopers may use low-profile vehicles, partially marked on only one side.
Troopers may saturate for a short time, then move to another location, or get back to their regular patrol work.
Now, about those criminal arrests. They were, Sadler said, five for outstanding warrants, one for possession of drug paraphernalia, one for possession of methamphetamine, and one for possession of marijuana.
Note there were no arrests for illegal gun possession. This was a surprise to us, based on what we read in this fine newspaper nearly every day.
A reader would see numerous arrests of felons in possession of weapons, some allegedly stolen, some allegedly defaced. The arrests often come after traffic stops by local police agencies. Stops are made for many reasons, including broken taillights and violations of the state's window-tinting law.
Looks like, to us, a different kind of saturation, designed to get the crime rate down.
Remember what Goldfinger said to Mr. Bond?
Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.
Umpteen times, in our mind, constitutes a mission.