More than 60 traffic stops conducted in four-hour period of time
By Brandi Makuski
The northeast end of Stevens Point was a flurry of activity Thursday night, thanks to the Wisconsin State Patrol.
Eight state patrol squads, including a Wisconsin State Patrol K-9 Unit, were deployed in the area of the Stanley St. corridor on Feb. 2, part of a state trooper highway and criminal interdiction detail.
Lt. Rich Reichenberger of the WSP’s Wausau Post said the details are rotating in various communities throughout the year. Thursday was the city’s turn.
“Basically, we have troopers and K-9 officers in a certain area — we move around the region — and they work together on traffic stops,” Reichenberger said. “If there are any kind of indicators of criminal activity, then they would take it a step further. But if it was just a taillight out, or someone speeding, we just issue them a citation and get them on their way.”
Reichenberger said during the four-hour interdiction, troopers made 61 traffic stops yielding seven arrests, 16 seat-belt citations, multiple citations for possession of THC, and 99 written warnings for various traffic violations.
Often, the station patrol will coordinate with local law enforcement prior to a detail like this; but Stevens Point police said they were not informed of Thursday’s activities beforehand, and didn’t become aware until residents began to call dispatch with concerns.
“Apparently [state patrol] made quite a statement,” Assistant Police Chief Tom Zenner said. “They rattled some cages in that area, and that can be a good thing because controlled substances come to our community, by and large, via vehicle transportation. It’s not coming in by planes or trains, it comes in by vehicles. This is one way it’s addressed, by random interdiction.”
Zenner said the SPPD has conducted interdictions in the past and will continue to do so, utilizing either grant funding or department overtime funds to pay for heavier officer presence, as a way to follow up on spikes in various types of criminal activity, to include drunk driving and speeding.
“This isn’t manufacturing violations; a detail like this focuses on actual traffic violations,” he said. “It can be based on the number of complaints coming in, but we can focus on all types of criminal behavior when we conduct these details.”
Zenner referenced a 2013 joint interdiction between SPPD and WSP that also focused on traffic violations, which uncovered a 20-year-old warrant. During that detail, officers arrested 37-year-old Salvador Villalobos, who’d been on the run for over two decades on multiple charges of sexual assault from Dane County. Villalobos later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine months in jail there.
“That individual eluded law enforcement for a long time, and it was a simple traffic stop that caught him,” Zenner said. “Obviously it was a legitimate stop — he was just stopped in the middle of intersection. But it just shows that these kinds of details can pay off.”