NEWINGTON – The Berlin Turnpike has evolved since the late 1980s and 90s, when the main thoroughfare was plagued by dangerous car racing and gang gatherings.
Newington Police Chief Stephen Clark addressed the topic this week with Town Councilors, alerted by recent noise complaints from residents and businesses that live and work around Rt. 5.
“As spring pops I think there’s a lot of activity on the Berlin Turnpike,” Mayor Beth DelBuono said, asking the chief to update the body on recent traffic enforcement and police activity in that section of town.
Racing, loitering and trespassing used to be a big problem decades ago, according to the chief, when gang activity was at its height.
“It was a weekly event Friday and Saturday nights; the traffic enforcement violations were much more prevalent than they are now,” Clark said. “Although the problems exist today, they’re not nearly where they were in the 80s and 90s.”
In more recent years police responded to around 200 motor vehicle accidents per year on the state highway.
“When you consider the fact that there are 38,000 to 40,000 cars a day that travel the Berlin Turnpike I’m surprised there weren’t more,” Clark said.
Of the traffic stops Newington Police make in town, about 40% occur on the Berlin Turnpike.
Loitering or mass gatherings in parking lots are not as frequent or problematic these days, either. That’s in part due to an agreement police have with about 80 different businesses, which allow them to take enforcement action and arrest people trespassing on their properties.
One problem that remains to be solved, however, is the fact that speeding tickets and motor vehicle infractions are not being handled adequately by the judicial system due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Officers are issuing tickets and there’s no return on investment,” the chief said. “I’m trying to be optimistic that now that courts are starting to return to normal operations tickets are going to be adjudicated over there.”
Berlin Police also stepped up traffic enforcement on the Turnpike this year, Deputy Chief Chris Ciuci told the Herald back in February. Berlin patrols have been focusing more on violations like speeding, running red lights and drunk driving.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.