SPD analyzes traffic accident patterns


Of the 74 vehicle accidents that took place within city limits in a three-month period last year, 23 happened on Socorro’s most traveled public road, California Street.

Socorro Police Detective Richard Lopez used Google Maps to create a visual representation of all the accidents that officers wrote up a report for from July 8 to Oct. 8, 2011. At Monday’s city council meeting, Lopez projected his map onto the west wall of the council chambers and navigated through it, first showing an overview of the city and then zooming in to provide a closer view of intersections and areas where multiple accidents had occurred.

“There are two ways we handle an accident,” Lopez said. “One is we give them a form to fill out for accidents — that’s usually on private property. Two is when the officer writes a report for an accident. This only shows accidents where an officer wrote a report.”

Based on the map and on his professional experience, Lopez said the intersection of California and Otero streets typically has the highest number of reported collisions, followed by the intersection of California and Wal streets.

Seventeen of the 74 crashes Lopez mapped happened at intersections, and 16 occurred in parking lots. Four intersections — California and Baca, California and College, Otero and Sixth, and Spring and Grant streets — showed two collisions each during that time period.

Of the city’s most traveled roadways, other than California Street, five accidents took place on NW Frontage Road, four on Bullock Street and three took place on El Camino Real.

Lopez said a good number of accidents tend to happen on Plaza Street, because of post office traffic, but the majority of those are self-reports.

Mayor Ravi Bhasker said he’d like to see this accident mapping done at the end of every year, and would also like to see some mapping of other types of incidents, such as burglaries. Bhasker said he thought it could be helpful to the public to have this kind of information. He also mentioned the city might be able to look at patterns and see what could be done to improve safety in some areas.

Police Chief George Van Winkle said Socorro averages 20 to 25 accidents per month.

In Other Business

  • Uncontested Election: City Clerk Pat Salome has done some investigating and found that state statute will allow the city to consolidate polling places in the event of an uncontested election. There are no candidates running against the four incumbent city councilors up for re-election in the upcoming March municipal elections. Consolidating to one polling place will save the city $3,000 to $5,000 in election costs, such as paying poll workers. Therefore, on Election Day, March 6, all voting will take place at Socorro City Hall. Absentee and early voting is also taking place at Socorro City Hall.
  • Shelter Donations: The council approved a budget resolution increasing the Socorro Animal Control Shelter budget by $6,000. Finance Director Mable Gonzales said based on response so far by city utility customers to the donation option on utility bills, she estimates the city will receive an average of $500 per month in donations from the public for the shelter. The donations are earmarked for assistance with veterinary expenses and supplies.
  • Socorro Swim Center: The council approved a budget resolution increasing the budget for the municipal swimming pool by $30,000. At an earlier council meeting, Water Department Superintendent Lloyd Martinez reported that the pool needs approximately $25,000 in repairs. There are some holes in the floors, and the facility needs to be upgraded to meet requirements of new rules for handicapped access.
  • Chaparral Wastewater System Expansion: Steve Williams of Dennis Engineering informed the council that following a Jan. 19 inspection, all work required on the project by contract documents has been completed. The mayor said it was his understanding that some property owners have been taking advantage of monies available to help pay for hook ups. Gonzales said information on the agency providing this assistance is available at city hall.

Bhasker commented that the sewer expansion work completed so far has only been possible with the help of the USDA. He said the city still needs about $4.8 million to complete the final phase of the project, to connect residents of Hope Farms Road and the Evergreen neighborhood to the municipal waste water system.

  • Cuba Road Drainage Improvements: Williams said per a Jan. 9 inspection, work on what is being referred to as the Highland pond, visible from Fairground Road, has been completed. Bhasker said residents in the neighborhood are concerned about mosquitoes breeding in the pond, which is meant to temporarily hold flood water in heavy rains. He asked if the project could be landscaped with grass and trees in the same way as the pond on Franklin Street, to create a nice space for people to enjoy and to reduce mosquitoes. Williams said the pond has been designed to drain before there are mosquito larvae, and there’s no reason it can’t be landscaped.

Bhasker said he’d like to see a mural painted on the pond’s concrete spillway and suggested the mural could honor former city police officer Lonnie Zamora, who reported a UFO sighting south of Socorro in the early 1960s.


-- Email the author at sbarteau@dchieftain.com.