If someone gets caught speeding or rolling through a stop sign at the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, its Department of Public Safety now has the power to write a traffic ticket.
The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved at its Tuesday meeting the joint request from the college and city police chief Nathaniel Clark to enforce traffic laws on campus.
Campus police have arrest power and are required to meet the same requirements as any other Arkansas law enforcement officer, but DPS Chief Levi Risley said they were unable to hand out traffic violations. All traffic enforcement previously came through the Fort Smith Police Department.
According to the ordinance, it will be illegal for people to drive faster than the posted speed limits — with exception given to emergency vehicles and law enforcement in pursuit of a suspect. Speed limits are 15 mph on campus streets and 5 mph in parking lots, unless there is a time or condition that would indicate the need for slower driving. Those driving on campus must follow all posted directional, stop and yield signs; they are required to yield for pedestrians at crosswalks and in parking lots.
Risley said there should not be any confusion with the traffic regulations for drivers or officers.
“We work with the city of Fort Smith for placing traffic signs, so they're all state-recognized signs,” Risley said.
A person ticketed on campus may go to the Fort Smith or Barling district court to resolve the issue, Risley said. If they are convicted of a violation, according to the ordinance, it will be considered a misdemeanor and punished based on the municipal code.
The college has not had any serious traffic issues so far but wants to be proactive in its ability to handle incidents when they occur.
“This is more about anticipation for the future, since the campus is continuously expanding and the difference between a private road and a city-maintained street is not easily distinguishable,” Risley said. “They look exactly the same. The signs are exactly the same. A citizen may not know they're entering private property.”
The department will have jurisdiction on campus only, because it is considered private property. City police maintain their authority on or off campus.