Policing Maryland’s new superhighway -- Gazette.Net


For a highway that is about 16 miles long, it can feel as if Big Brother is watching every corner of the Intercounty Connector.

It’s common to see a police cruiser somewhere on the highway — either stopping someone or sitting in the median conducting what commuters believe to be enforcement of the speed limit. Once drivers see the dark, Maryland Transportation Authority Police Ford Chargers, it’s only seconds before they’re driving slower than the 55 mph posted speed limit. But issuing speeding tickets only scratches the surface of what the police do to ensure safety on the road.

Driving his black, unmarked car with a Gazette reporter, photographer and Transportation Authority spokesman Sgt. Kirk Perez in tow, Lt. Eric Wilson was happy to point out every detail of the ICC — from the toll gantries to the stream crossings to the soon-to-be ICC building being constructed off of Virginia Manor Road in Laurel. In his 18 years with the department, he has been stationed elsewhere — including Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport — but the ICC can be considered his favorite assignment.

“This is a vital link through the county,” he said. “People may see Montgomery County police and Capital Park Police driving up and down. They’re constantly going back and forth. It’s just great.”Just shy of Exit 8, a police cruiser was parked on the other side of the road with traffic heading west. Radar, perhaps? The officer was scanning license plates of passing automobiles using a device called an license plate reader. Later that morning, Officer Yancy Anthony let The Gazette have a close look at the device. Two scanners mounted on the back of the cruiser captures images of license plates, which goes through a computer checks to see if the car’s owner has a prior record or outstanding warrants.

Anthony and other officers can get so many hits with the device at a time they cannot go after every offender. He recently was able to track and recover a stolen car.

“I had so many this morning,” Anthony said. “It’ll be hitting one after another.”

As Wilson’s radio comes on around 10:41 a.m., a crackly voice calls out for pick up order that’s needed to get a car with expired tags off the road because it is no longer driveable. While running a routine background check of the driver during the stop, Officer Scott Pittaway discovered he was wanted in Prince George’s County. As he mentioned later while writing up the report, the driver was wanted for failing to appear for his court date, which occurred only the day before.

Because of security reasons, Wilson could not to comment on how many Transportation Authority officers patrol the ICC on a typical day, but he and Perez assured everyone the road does not receive any special treatment.

“All our staffing is [comparable]. It’s nothing extra,” Perez said.Although it might not surprise commuters to know that speeding is the most common driving offense committed on the ICC, police are on the lookout for greater problems. They recently stopped and arrested a man who was driving with a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. His 8-year-old granddaughter was in the backseat.