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State police traffic stops drop by half since pandemic began

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut State Police are pulling over law-breaking drivers at less than half the rate they were at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data.

Troopers pulled over about 76,000 motorists in 2020, compared with about 157,000 in 2019, according to statistics compiled by the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at the University of Connecticut and reported Saturday by the Hartford Courant.

Traffic stops have further dropped this year, despite data showing motorists are driving faster than ever. State police stopped about 59,900 vehicles from January to October, statistics show.

Troopers also are writing fewer tickets — 105,000 in 2019, about 45,000 in 2020 and about 27,600 in the first 10 months of this year, data show.

Andrew Matthews, executive director of the state troopers' union and a retired state police sergeant, said three factors in the drop in enforcement have been decreased staffing, worries about contracting the virus and low morale caused by new police accountability laws. He said there are about 300 fewer troopers than there were about 15 years ago, when staffing peaked at 1,283., because of retirements.

Gov. Ned Lamont and Bridgeport state Rep. Steven Stafstrom, both Democrats, said staffing is a concern, but they doubted the accountability laws are to blame. The laws have limited police immunity from lawsuits and expanded the reasons officers' state certifications can be revoked, among other measures.

Traffic fatalities in Connecticut are on track to total more than 330 this year, which would be the highest annual number since comprehensive records began being compiled in 1994, state officials said.

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