Early last year, the Berlin Police Department searched for ways to reduce annual accidents in Berlin Borough.
According to data provided by the department, the borough averaged 452 crashes per year during 2016 and 2018. As a result, department Sgt. Jason Christy recommended a policing model called Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS), an approach that has reduced accidents at three key borough intersections since it was implemented last August.
During much of 2019, Christy and other members of the department worked closely with the nearby Evesham Police Department to better understand how the latter uses DDACTS. Christy said Evesham has had success with the policing model for a number of years.
“They’ve seen unbelievable success with it over the last 10 years, along Route 73 and Route 70 for example,” Christy said. “They’re handling a couple thousand accidents per year, while we’re dealing with a little more than 400.
“But with as small of a town as we are, and with how much residents from other towns drive through here, those 400 accidents a year are still pretty substantial as well.”
After getting familiar with the model and how to best use its technology, the Berlin Police Department pulled all of its crash data from 2016 through 2018 and identified three so-called borough hot zones to remedy, all along the White Horse Pike.
The data showed intersections at Franklin Avenue, Cross Keys Road and Jackson Road along the White Horse Pike were traffic concerns the department could address through DDACTS. The department also looked at what days of the week had the highest percentage of accidents at each individual intersection, and what times of the day each intersection typically experienced accidents.
For the intersection of Jackson Road and the White Horse Pike, a startling 27.4 percent of accidents occurred on Tuesday, according to three years of available data, with 8 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 3 p.m. particularly dangerous times of that day.
Meanwhile, the intersection of Franklin Avenue and White Horse Pike experienced 26.74 percent of accidents on Thursday, with the most dangerous times being 7 to 8 a.m. and 2 to 3 p.m. The White Horse Pike and Cross Keys Road intersection saw 17.37 percent of its accidents on Friday, with 8 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. the most dangerous times.
“We had to break down what days of the week and at what specific times of the day are these accidents occurring,” Christy noted. “That took some time to really do some research and specifically pinpoint, from the past three years at that point, when is the best time to deploy our officers so that we might decrease motor vehicle accidents.”
After finishing the research and figuring out what days and times were best for potential deployment of officers at specific intersections, the department began the new policing model.
Now in 2020 — having had time to evaluate crash statistics from August to December with the policing model in place — the department saw a significant decrease in crashes in all three of the DDACTS zones, a 23.51 percent decrease across all the intersections.
The department reported a total of 438 crashes in 2019, the fewest in the past five years, according to Christy. The decrease in crash percentages showed at least a drop-off in borough accidents due to police presence and enforcement in targeted zones. Officers conducted 240 stops in the targeted DDACTS zones while issuing 289 summonses.
While the five-month period during 2019 that DDACTS was in place may not be the direct reason the crash total dropped, the department is excited about its implementation across a full year in 2020.
“Overall, going into this, the department wanted to find any way possible to help reduce accidents within the borough, especially at these specific intersections, and it appears that we were able to achieve that,” Christy noted.
“Moving forward, we may be implementing some changes to possibly increase the number of days or lengthen the amount of time that we have officers at these intersections.”
Christy also said the department may branch out — through the DDACTS program — into other areas along the pike, because drivers getting accustomed to police presence at specific intersections and certain times are only slowing down temporarily before speeding up further down the pike.
Berlin Chief of Police Millard Wilkinson agreed the implantation of DDACTS and coordination with officers has helped address problematic intersections, particularly Franklin Avenue along the White Horse Pike. As changes by the state Department of Transportation are anticipated at that intersection, Wilkinson is proud his officers have addressed the issue as best they can until improvements are made.
“Every town is calling the state and the DOT to try to get different intersections in their towns fixed,” the chief said. “We’re no different than every other town in that respect.
“But we’re not going to sit on our hands in the meantime.”