Portales police target school zone law violators

By Karl Terry, PNT managing editor

With the start of school last week the Portales Police Department has cracked down on school zone violations as it does every year but the efforts in the area of Portales High School has drawn a mixed reaction.

Capt. Lonnie Berry, spokesperson for the PPD, confirmed that police had issued a significant number of tickets in the high school area in the first few days of school. He said the crackdown was in response to concerns by area residents going back to last spring.

“The whole basis is that the school kids hadn’t been very good neighbors and they should know better,” Berry said.

Berry said citations were written for a variety of violations, including speed, jaywalking, stop sign violation and underage tobacco use.

He said compliance improved dramatically the second day of school and has continued to improve. Still, he said seven citations were issued Wednesday morning in school zones.

Berry said students, faculty and even some of the neighboring residents were recipients of the citations.

“(Municipal) Judge (Frederick) Arnold has dismissed most of the citations but that’s not going to deter us,” Berry said. “We have an obligation to the people in that neighborhood.

Arnold would not comment on the citation blitz when contacted by the PNT Wednesday.

PHS Principal Melvin Nusser said he is supportive of the effort even though it resulted in getting a ticket himself.

He said the school has always emphasized using the crosswalks and not loitering on surrounding private property but that effort has been redoubled.

“We want safe school zones,” Nusser said. “We want kids to come to school and feel safe. One kid run over in a crosswalk would be a tragedy.”

Berry said officers have been patrolling each of the city’s school zones every morning. He said a new drop-off zone at James Elementary has improved safety there but he says that continues to be the worst spot for school zone speed compliance.