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Iowa State troopers target busy interstates

Dec 02, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Drivers are more likely to be stopped by the Iowa State Patrol in one of five counties that are home to busy stretches of Interstate 80.

The Des Moines Register analyzed five years of reports to determine the patrol’s interdiction team writes the most tickets in Pottawattamie, Poweshiek, Cass, Iowa and Dallas counties.

About 22,000 tickets and warnings were issued by the team from 2008 to 2012. Of those, more than 17,000 were issued in those five counties, the records show.

The busiest single location for traffic stops in Iowa was near mile marker 5 on I-80 not far from the Nebraska border. The specially trained troopers issued 785 tickets and warnings there as part of the 4,027 citations and warnings issued in Pottawattamie County.

The next-busiest location for traffic stops was on I-80 near Grinnell in Poweshiek County. Troopers issued 555 citations and warnings near mile marker 201.

Poweshiek County was the busiest county with 6,319 citations and warnings during the period.

Most of the state’s 360 troopers are spread across the state in varying numbers. However, the data showed the interdiction team rarely patrols 83 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright said the interdiction team officers work in pairs and receive additional training. Their job is to find individuals responsible for drug, firearms and human trafficking crimes while also enforcing traffic laws.

Last year, the interdiction team seized 776 pounds of marijuana, 5.5 pounds of methamphetamine and 1.8 pounds of cocaine. The troopers also arrested a terrorism suspect and caught human trafficking suspects, Bright said.

Pottawattamie County attorney Matthew Wilber said he’s not surprised by the focus on the stretch of I-80 close to a Council Bluffs exit.

“That is a well-known local trap,” he said. “Council Bluffs police are also there a lot.”

Wilber said it also makes sense that more than 11,000 of the nearly 18,000 tickets and citations issued on I-80 come from eastbound traffic.

“It’s pretty well known that drugs move east” to places like Chicago, he said, “and cash moves west. You would hope they would be focusing on the drugs.”

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