The New Matamoras Police Department was presented with the highest award given to police departments by AAA on Wednesday: the Community Traffic Safety Platinum Award.
According to J.J. Miller, safety advisor for AAA East Central, the award involves tracking a problem over several years, implementing ways to decrease the issue, then getting a strong percentage of success.
She said the New Matamoras police force was focusing on just a few issues but doing it well.
"They're focusing on teen drivers and aggressive driving," Miller said.
Sgt. Russell Blamble said the last award the department had received was in 2011, so they were glad to be getting one, especially an award as high as the platinum.
"We're pretty excited about it," he said. "We're going to try to do as well, if not better, next year. Our officers worked really hard this year."
At a glance
Award recipients in attendance were:
Beverly Police Department: Bronze.
Belpre Police Department: Bronze.
Marietta Police Department: Silver.
Marietta College Police Department: Silver.
Marietta Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol: Gold.
New Matamoras Police Department: Platinum.
Other award recipients include:
Coolville Police Department: Bronze.
Pomeroy Police Department: Bronze.
Steubenville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol: Gold.
During Wednesday afternoon, six awards were given to area law enforcement agencies at the Levee House, at 127 Ohio St.
According to Miller, the awards are given because of the officers' dedication to making the community a safer place.
"It's a way for AAA to thank these officers for their dedication in lowering crashes and fatalities," she said. "They focus on child passenger safety to senior driving and everything in between."
Miller said the departments help make sure AAA is aware of their focus and what they're doing to help curtail the problem.
"(The departments) send in checklists each year to let us know of some of the activities they're involved in," she said. "From there we can help with resource information to help offer the best safety opportunities for the community. A lot of the (departments) focused on the same criteria this year: teenage driving, distracted driving and DUI. Those were the major ones."
Miller said she was very impressed with the work Washington County police forces were doing.
"You are making a difference," she said to the departments. "If someone doesn't thank you on a daily basis, someone out there does care. I know the challenges are difficult and I see them getting worse...(These awards are for) the hard work and dedication you guys do."
The Marietta College Police Department also received an award; it was silver.
"We have community-police events, where we discuss traffic," said Marietta College Police Chief Jim Weaver. "It's nice to know that somebody sees the value in what we try to educate our kids with. It's an honor to receive this award."
Capt. Jeff Waite of the Marietta Police Department said that though the police force is usually busy with other crimes besides traffic concerns, they will try to get a higher award than silver next year.
"We're honored to accept this award," he said. "We've gotten awards over the years. We didn't get the gold (this year) like the patrol. We're always trying for improvement; (the gold) would be nice."
Sgt. Garic Warner of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said that it was honor to receive an award from AAA. The Marietta Post received a gold award.
"It's such an honor to be recognized by AAA," he said. "We have the same customer base-dealing with drivers and traffic concerns. A lot of our goals go hand in hand, so to be recognized by them is an honor. Next year we will work for the platinum (Award)."
While many area law enforcement agencies were given awards, the Washington County Sheriff's Office was not one of them.
Sheriff Larry Mincks said he was unsure if it was because the office didn't send in reports to AAA or if it was the fact that taking care of traffic issues is not a primary concern of the department.
Miller said hundreds of awards are given out across the country and that Ohio's awards rank up there with other states. While around 200 departments will be recognized in Ohio, about 130 will be recognized in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.