EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Patrolman Robert Moran turned on his overhead lights on his patrol car at about 3:25 p.m. Wednesday.

A dark blue Honda Civic pulled onto the shoulder of Old Egg Harbor Road. One of its brake lights was out. Moran eventually cited the driver for failing to maintain his lamps, a $44 ticket.

The car and its three passengers sat still on the hot August day while township police checked the driver's identification, the car's license plates and Moran filled out the paperwork.

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Several dozen cars drove by slowly during those 15 minutes, and nearly every driver and passenger inside craned his or her neck to see what was happening.

That was precisely the point.

Egg Harbor Township recently started targeting an eastern section of the township for heightened scrutiny with the help of the Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety model. The goal, explained police Chief Michael J. Morris, is that high-visibility stops like this will lead to both less crime and safer driving.

The philosophy is the basic approach behind DDACTS. The model uses selected crime and traffic crash data to help decide when and where officers are most needed.

The idea, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is that crime often involves motor vehicles. Highly visible traffic enforcement serves as a deterrent to crime, while it encourages motorists to drive safer.

Egg Harbor Township initially used this approach in late 2011, about 10 months after Morris was named chief.

Morris said there had been a number of burglaries in the township's more rural southern third. Robbers would kick in a door and make off with the valuables. Through these complaints and reports, police could broadly narrow down when and where these were happening.

Police deployed en masse, swarming the area, making arrests and issuing traffic citations.

No one was arrested for the burglaries, but Morris said it was significant that the wave of burglaries stopped.

Were the robbers scared off by the heavy police presence? Perhaps. Added Morris, "We may have made an arrest of someone in the crew and didn't know it."

Since then the township has reviewed its data and changed its targets. The main focus most days is a broad and busy triangle in the eastern corner of the township, generally running from Tilton Road to Fire Road, along Fire Road to the Black Horse Pike, and from there to Uibel Avenue. State traffic records show as many as 29,000 vehicles pass through these and nearby roads.

The policing focus can shift, Morris said, depending on the season and the data.

The department has focused on the area immediately around the airport traffic circle, and during the holiday season beefs up patrols near the Shore Mall and English Creek Shopping district.

One hope is that the heightened focus can reduce traffic accidents. Egg Harbor Township averages about 2,000 crashes a year, Morris said, and about 350 people are injured.

So far the approach seems to be working.

Despite having fewer officers than years past, department statistics show that township crashes in the targeted area fell 37 percent between 2011 and 2012, the first full year of using DDACTS. Injuries from crashes were reduced about 24 percent.

While reports of simple assault remained essentially unchanged, theft fell 14 percent and fraud fell 30 percent. The three are the township's most common categories of serious crime.

Egg Harbor Township is also one of several municipalities, including Vineland; Toms River, Ocean County; and Mt. Laurel, Burlington County; to win DDACTS grants from the state Office of Highway Safety.

Egg Harbor Township used its $15,000 grant to hire a crime data analyst. That person, Danielle Stanford, is a recent Temple University criminal justice graduate. She started this month after interning with Philadelphia police, learning and helping the department track gun crime.

The goal, Morris said, is that Stanford can help the township read the data and react even quicker to emerging threats.

"We can have an impact," Morris said. "That's probably the reason most of us got involved in police work."

Contact Derek Harper:


Follow Derek Harper on Twitter @dnharper


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