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Operation ABC Mobilization News Conference Remarks

Monday, November 22, 1999
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey

I am very pleased to be here today on behalf of all the dedicated men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC.

Our Department has participated in the Operation ABC Mobilization since its inception. And it is my pleasure to continue the tradition... because I, personally—and our Department, collectively—are committed to the safety of our children.

Today, we join other with law enforcement agencies across the nation to declare—with one voice—zero tolerance for unbuckled children. Drivers who break the laws protecting our children will be stopped, and enforcement action will be taken. It’s that simple.

Here in the District of Columbia, Mayor Anthony Williams and I have adopted a zero tolerance policy for unbuckled children, as part of our "Policing for Prevention" strategy. And along with Vanessa Dale Burns, our Director of Public Works, we are proud to say that here in our Nation’s Capital, we are putting the policy of zero tolerance into practice—this week and every week of the year.

We are doing it in three important ways:

  • First, with the support of the Mayor and our District Council, we have some of the strongest laws in the nation covering both child passenger and safety belt use—with stiff fines and two points on the driver’s record for both types of violations.
  • Second, we enforce our laws day in and day out, throughout the year. And our Department conducts periodic special enforcement initiatives, such as the child restraint checkpoints that are under way this week. We have been practicing this philosophy for some time now. Our KIDS checkpoint program has received several national awards, and is the model for many jurisdictions that are now participating in nationwide Operation ABC Mobilization efforts.
  • Third, and finally, we embrace the concept of zero tolerance as a community. The DC’s Clickin’ coalition is a broad-based group of DC government, health, advocacy and civic organizations. Together, this coalition works to educate residents on the importance of child passenger safety. This educational component is an important complement to our enforcement efforts.

One educational program that is making a real difference is the Department of Public Works’ "Project Safe Child" car seat loaner program—which by the way, was recently expanded to include booster seats for toddlers. Through this and other innovative programs supported by DC’s Clickin’, we can help ensure that no child in our city is denied the protection of a car seat.

As we enter the holiday travel season, be reminded that not just the Metropolitan Police Department, but law enforcement nationwide is adopting this stance of zero tolerance for unbuckled children.

As police officers, our goal is not to write tickets. Our goal is to save lives. But make no mistake about it: if issuing tickets is what it takes for some motorists to obey the law and protect our children, then that is what we will continue to do.

I am gratified to report that our prevention efforts are, indeed, getting results here in DC. Compared to this date last year, the District of Columbia has experienced 25 percent fewer passenger fatalities in 1999. And driver fatalities have declined 33 percent from this time in 1998.

And our seat belt usage rate remains high—at over 80 percent, according to the latest studies.

As I look to the future, I am optimistic that law enforcement’s renewed commitment to traffic safety and child passenger protection during this holiday season will allow us to enter the new millennium on a safer note for the motoring public in our Nation’s Capital and throughout our great nation. Today’s Operation ABC Mobilization kicks off this commitment.

I want to close this morning with an invitation for each of you to join our police officers, after this event, at a child passenger safety checkpoint in the 200 block of M Street, SW—a short distance from here. Thank you very much.