A few times a month, Akron Police Auditor Phil Young gets a complaint from a resident about being pulled over for a minor vehicle issue, like a license plate light that isn’t working or a headlight that has burned out.
This gave Young an idea: Why not provide inspections to help people identify minor vehicle issues that could result in traffic stops?
Young took his proposal to the Akron City Council, the Akron Police Department, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the State Highway Patrol. They all jumped on board.
“We thought it would be a public service for our community to start to run free inspections,” Young said.
The first inspection will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of Henry’s Acme, 1525 S. Hawkins Ave.
Young is asking council members to pick the time and locations for inspections in their respective wards. The initial inspection is in Councilwoman Margo Sommerville’s Ward 3. She chose the spot because of the ease of getting there and its proximity to several auto parts stores.
“No one will be written up or be given a ticket,” Sommerville said of the inspections. “We want to make sure we really communicate that well.”
Representatives from the police department, sheriff’s office and highway patrol will handle the inspections, which are only expected to take about five minutes.
They will follow a form the patrol uses.
Young said motorists won’t even need to get out of their vehicles. The inspections are open to anyone, regardless of residence, he said.
The inspections will look for minor issues like faulty horns, headlights, brake lights, turn signals, four-way flashers, license plate lights and seat belts. The highway patrol trooper will have a tint meter that can measure whether windows are legal.
Young talked to three of the major auto parts dealers in the city — AutoZone, Advance Auto Parts and O’Reilly’s — and they agreed to help motorists who get their vehicles inspected with minor repairs, such as installing new light bulbs purchased at their stores.
Young is hoping a fund eventually can be set up to help those who need it with minor car repairs, like the cost of buying a new headlight. He would like to see inspections in every ward in the city.
Marilyn Keith, the Ward 8 councilwoman, will coordinate the next inspection. She has not secured a date or location.
Council President Garry Moneypenny, Ward 10, would like to see some inspections in the parking lots of senior complexes to assist senior citizens with vehicle repairs they need.
Moneypenny, whose career was in law enforcement, said he used minor vehicle issues, like a broken taillight, as a reason to pull over vehicles, particularly late at night. Such a stop is permissible under the law.
Besides identifying issues with vehicles, Moneypenny said, the inspections will provide positive interactions between police officers and residents.
“We need to create that whenever we get an opportunity to do so,” he said.
Young said local law enforcement has been supportive, with Akron police officers suggesting the inspections be held more often than once a year as Young originally had in mind.
Akron Police Sgt. Erik Wells, who is with the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Division, called the inspections a good idea.
“We all go out to the car, start it and drive away,” he said. “We have no idea if we have a headlight out or a taillight out.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith.