Harrison County’s rural roads are seeing just as much danger as the interstate highway. To help better monitor traffic stops, conducted particularly in Precinct 1, the county commissioners court gave Pct. 1 Constable John Hickey the OK to purchase a video camera for his patrol unit, as a matter of safety.
“It’s kind of mindboggling what’s actually happening out there that we don’t even see,” Pct. 4 Commissioner Jay Ebarb commented as he reflected on statistical information the constable shared.
“It’s pretty spooky,” Ebarb said.
Constable Hickey noted that he’s written 73 citations, particularly for speeding, on the rural roads in his territory within this month, alone.
“Our area is pretty big. It’s spread out a lot, so in that area while I’m serving papers, I travel a lot of highway,” said Hickey. “I travel I-20, I travel 43 south, 43 north; I travel 31 south; I travel 59 south and Highway 9 north and south.
“Then (Farm-to-Market Road) 2625 pretty much get a lot of traffic that have an opportunity to stretch out and gain a lot of speed.”
Of the 73 citations he’s written this month, 18 have been written for traveling 88 to 89 miles per hour; 40 were issued for speeds of 90 to 99 miles per hour and 10 have been issued for traveling more than 100 miles per hour. Additionally, he’s written a citation for one DWI and three for no driver’s license.
“So that’s the reason I’m requesting video cameras if something is going on,” Hickey told the commissioners court Tuesday.
Not only will the video camera provide him with video evidence of a traffic stop or incident, but it’ll also backtrack the recording to his preference.
“Out there interacting with the public, I have a documentation that can be looked back on, on how the incident went or how the traffic stop went,” said Hickey. “And also that video camera also looks at my radar and it backs up a minute to three minutes, however I have it set.
“Once I activate my lights and pull this person over that video will back up the length of time before I activate it,” he explained. “So if a person is speeding or an accident that happened in front of me or a person driving down the road, crossing the line, and driving erratically, once I activate my lights, it backs up a full minute to two minutes, however I have it set before I ever activate it; so it’s constantly backing up itself and starting over.”
The constable said the body cams are good for one-on-one interaction, but the patrol camera will provide that extra security he needs.
“When you’re outside the vehicle, if another vehicle came along the highway, a drunk driver can hit your car, you never know what happens,” he said, giving a hypothetical scenario.
“That gives you a wider range of view to what’s going on,” he said of having a car camera.
Hickey noted that the constables had video cameras in their other units, but the cameras were 14 years and needed updating.
“That’s the reason why I was requesting it,” he said. “I travel a lot of highway, all around my precinct. And the other constables don’t have as much opportunity (to interact with traffic) like I do. I’m always constantly coming across it.”
The Watchguard video equipment will cost $6,005. It will be purchased from money available in the group health non-departmental section of the county budget.
County Judge Chad Sims thanked Hickey for his extra efforts in taking on additional duties to help patrol his assigned area.
“We appreciate you keeping our folks safe. That’s certainly a safety issue. We’re thankful for that,” Judge Sims said.
Commissioner Ebarb echoed his sentiments.
“What’s spooky to me is this is not just 70 (plus) stops on I-20, running east and west,” said Ebarb. “We’re talking about people on Farm-to-Market roads where our kids and grandkids are catching school buses and learning to drive.
“It is extremely spooky, to me, to think that we’ve got this many people just in what you’ve told us that are out there with 15 and 16-year-old kids trying to learn how to drive and going back and forth to school on these Farm-to-Market Roads,” he added. “So we need to protect our citizens of Harrison County.”
Pct. 1 Commissioner William Hatfield, who represents that area, concurred. He also thanked the constable along with Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Judge John Oswalt for their efforts.
“I’d like to echo the work that’s being done out of that JP office. Mr. Oswalt is doing an outstanding job,” said Hatfield. “We’ve got a great constable that’s working there, so it looks like we’re working our way to being back number one.”