By Dave Rogers
---- — AMESBURY — For 21 years, the city has not recorded a single pedestrian fatality. While luck certainly plays a role, it is through the hard work and proactive approach by the Amesbury Police Department that makes such an achievement possible.
In November, AAA, the nationwide drivers assistance and safety organization, recognized the department for its dedication to public safety.
In addition to winning the agency’s 2011 Pedestrian Safety Award of Excellence, the department also received the Gold Award from AAA and crime prevention officer Thomas Hanshaw was named the agency’s Traffic Safety Hero Award. All three honors were bestowed in November during AAA’s annual dinner in Andover.
Hanshaw said the department applied for the awards last September as part of its ongoing accreditation process. The department is one of many law enforcement agencies that is accredited for its work. Such accreditation helps cut insurance bills and inspires greater confidence in the department in the eyes of the public. But Hanshaw said no one in the department, including Chief Mark Gagnon, had any idea they had won the awards until they were announced.
“It’s another one of those things that shows the department is doing a pretty good job,” Hanshaw said.
The Gold Award, which was bestowed on only one other department in the state for 2011, is given to departments that show outstanding traffic safety and show continued effort to educate and protect its citizens. According to AAA, the award is not a competition but rather any department that earns the required number of points receives the awards. Points are earned for having an active Traffic Safety Committee, a Safe Routes to School program and other areas of excellence including education, enforcement and engineering, according to AAA.
In terms of education, the police department received points for its child car seat installation program, school safety presentations conducted by Hanshaw and its Coffee with the Chiefs program where Gagnon and fire Chief Jonathan Brickett meet with area senior citizens once a month. Enforcement points were earned with the department’s Click or Ticket program, speed detection, underaged drinking enforcement and crosswalk violation enforcement. In terms of engineering, the city’s Traffic & Transportation and Technical Planning Committee helped them earn the Gold Award.
Hanshaw said he hopes the awards have the effect of letting residents know that their taxpayer dollars are being well spent by the department as well as reducing insurance liabilities for motorists who live in or out of town.
“We’re working to make the roads safer,” Hanshaw said.
Eleanor Baker, AAA regional manger for public affairs based in North Andover, praised Amesbury’s police force for its continued efforts to do just that.
“They have a strong program over there, they’ve been very much in the forefront for keeping roads safe for the motorists and their pedestrians,” Baker said. “We want to make sure they get the acknowledgment they deserve.”