The D.C. police department issued more than 500 citations last week to motorists who were not wearing seat belts or whose child passengers were not restrained in child-safety seats.
The department set up traffic checkpoints throughout the District in partnership with the city Department of Public Works, the DC SAFE KIDS Coalition and the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University Medical Center as part of a national initiative to promote car safety for children.
"Here in the District, we are embracing the concept of zero tolerance for unbuckled children by using every means at our disposal to make sure children are properly buckled in," Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said in a news release issued late last week. "No officer enjoys writing a ticket, but we will issue as many as needed to keep kids safe."
Although last week's enforcement was part of a special effort, police will continue to issue citations routinely for traffic violations.
The penalty for not buckling up is a $50 fine and two points on the license for drivers. The penalty for not having children in an appropriate car seat or seat-belt restraint is a $55 fine and two points. As of Monday night, 596 citations had been issued, along with 10 child-safety seats.
Drivers who had child-safety seats that were old, worn or malfunctioning in any way were issued new car seats through the coalition's loaner program, run by Public Works.
There are 16 loaner sites in the District, and any D.C. resident, with proper identification, can rent an infant car seat for nine months for $10 and a toddler seat for $20 for one year. At the end of the loan period, half of the money will be refunded if the safety seat is returned in good condition, along with an owner's manual issued with the seat.
Drivers may call a hot line, 202-939-8017, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, to find loaner sites.
Last week's stepped up traffic enforcement was in addition to the police department's Summer Mobile Force, an effort to focus on crime-ridden areas identified through police records. That initiative has had some success in its first month.
"What we're trying to do is be more proactive and have more police fluid and mobile in these hot spots," Ramsey said.
Capt. Mark Beach, commander of the Summer Mobile Force, said that between April 28 and Memorial Day, the effort netted 182 felony arrests, 496 misdemeanor arrests and 344 traffic arrests. More than 50 vehicles were confiscated for not having appropriate registration, insurance or inspection stickers, and illegal drugs with a street value of $37,665 and 11 guns were seized, he said.
"We believe in prevention and high visibility patrol and community policing," Beach said, noting that no police officer has been taken off a regular patrol to help with the initiative. Officers working on both efforts are volunteers working overtime.
More than 100 police officers have volunteered for the summer initiative, which ends Sept. 30. Ramsey said he will evaluate the program's effectiveness and cost then.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.