SOUTH PORTLAND — Police and residents are partnering to try to curb drivers who speed.

On May 13, residents will have the chance to discuss the problem in a “Calm the Traffic” event from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Police Department on Anthoine Street. The meeting aims to spread awareness about speeding and its impact on community safety.

Chelsea Kearns, a resident of Parrott Street for almost six years, said speeding has always been an issue in her neighborhood because people use Parrott as a cut-through between Sawyer and Ocean streets. After she saw a complaint about speeding from her neighbor on Nextdoor — a private social network for neighboring communities — the two connected to develop a group aimed at addressing the issue.

“Walking the street by myself is scary enough when people go flying by me in their cars, but when I have my kids with me it really, really scares me,” Kearns said. “We have kindly put our hands out at times asking people to slow down, but the response you generally get to that is not a kind one. And we really aren’t solving the issue just by doing that.”

Officer Rocco Navarro said Parrott Street residents then reached out to him, and helped organize the upcoming event. He hopes the discussion on speeding in South Portland shows people he is listening and working hard to address the issue.

“It’s not all about writing everyone tickets,” he said. “An event like this gives officers the ability to build a positive rapport with the community. People just want to see their communities safer, and I’m here to try and implement ways to make that happen.”

According to Navarro, who is also a traffic specialist, the majority of residents reaching out to the department with traffic complaints are worried about speeding. He said enforcing speed limits on streets like Parrott prove easier to manage due to the lower traffic concentration.

“It’s not easy catching people on Broadway, because the road is busy and everyone is trying to keep up with the flow of traffic,” he said. “But I specifically target low-traffic, residential neighborhoods and areas near schools.”

Navarro said speeding accidents often correlate with external distractions, such as texting. He added that the problem is universal and doesn’t discriminate;  his biggest offenders are often older. Kearns also noted that distractions likely play a role in why people speed.

“Perhaps people leave later, which makes them rush,” she said. “They could also be eating, texting, talking on the phone.”

According to Sgt. Paul Lambert, different tactics to slow speeders are implemented, based on complaints and neighborhood need. Temporary speed bumps and radar signs are just a few of the solutions put in place on Parrott Street in recent months, and Navarro said more could be deployed if necessary.

“There will be slide shows and discussion at the event, it will be helpful to hear from residents about the topic,” Navarro said. “Until then, I’ll keep monitoring residential areas. If I stay in one place for a while, people will psychologically think Officer Navarro is around the corner and be more likely to stay within the speed limits.”

So far, the changes on Parrott Street have made a difference, Kearns said. But she also hopes the event gives people a space to brainstorm further ways to address the issue. In the meantime, she’s grateful for the work Navarro has put in so far to keep her neighborhood safe.

“In my six years living there I could count on two hands the number of times I saw a police officer drive through before Officer Navarro got involved,” she said.

“People knew they could speed through without getting pulled over,” Kearns said. “I think all the tactics in general bring a sense of awareness to the issue of speeding and let people know that we see a problem and we really want to try and do something about it.”

Krysteana Scribner can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9094. Follow her on Twitter: @krysteana2016.

A mobile speed detector alerts drivers on Parrott Street in South Portland to slow down.

A temporary speed bump is designed to help slow traffic on Parrott Street in South Portland.

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