Thursday, September 9, 2021

Pottstown May Expand Police to Control Speeding

Flowers and balloons adorn a utility pole on Queen Street near where Nicole Benzenhafer was killed in a fatal accident Aug. 3.

Following up on calls for increased police enforcement of speeding laws in the wake of a fatal accident on Queen Street last month, Pottstown Police Chief Michael Markovich plans to ask for hiring two more officers to form a traffic division.

Those officers' shifts, Markovich told borough council during Wednesday night's work session, would be devoted to traffic enforcement.

Markovich told council that his officers stopped 966 vehicles in May, June, July and August.

He also said three seven-day traffic studies had been conducted in areas where his department has received complaints for speeding.

The studies were in the 700 block of West Chestnut Street; the 800 block of North Franklin Street and in the 1000 block of North Evans Street.

In all three locations, no more than 1 percent of the drivers exceeded the 25 mile-per-hour speed limit, Markovich said.

However, speed is not the only circumstance of bad driving. Markovich said the department is also looking at other dangerous violations, like running stop signs.

He said he has been in conversation with the public works department about other places stop signs could be placed in the borough.

Pottstown Police Chief Michael Markovich, facing 
borough council, outlines steps police are taking
to control speeding in the borough.
Pottstown currently has two electronic signs that show people how fast they are driving, which is designed to jolt them into slowing down. His department looked into buying signs that show the speed in red and blue when it is over the speed limit, "but it turns out they are illegal in Pennsylvania," Markovich said.

"You've got to be kidding me" said Council President Dan Weand.

The focus on speeding comes in the wake of the death of  Nicole Benzenhafer, a single mother of 35 who lived in Lower Pottsgrove.

She was killed in a  crash near the corner of Madison and Queen streets on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

The preliminary crash report from police indicated witnesses said the driver of the vehicle that struck Benzenhafer's vehicle was driving recklessly throughout the borough, blowing through multiple stop signs.

The case remains under investigation by the Montgomery County District Attorney's office.

More than 1,000 signatures have been lodged on a petition created in the wake of the crash.

The petition reads, in part, "Enough is enough — something needs to be done. To those who sign the petition, let this be a promise to abide by the rules of the road to help ensure safety on our streets. To those government officials with the power to make change — LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE OF POTTSTOWN AND TAKE ACTION. MAKE OUR STREETS SAFE."

In addition to the police studies and possible expansion of the force, Weand has asked the staff to look into adding speed bumps and other traffic calming devices such as have been instituted in Jenkintown Borough.

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