ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — More than 1,600 traffic citations – mostly speeding tickets – were written in a 15-week crackdown on dangerous driving launched in honor of Lilly Garcia, a 4-year-old girl shot in the head in her car seat after her father and a man engaged in a road rage incident on Interstate 40.
Operation Lilly started Nov. 18 and concluded at the end of February. Officers from three agencies worked overtime or special assignment targeting only traffic violations related to road rage and dangerous driving, including texting while driving.
Gov. Susana Martinez announced Monday that the operation, which targeted only Bernalillo County, netted five suspected drunken drivers, four wanted felons and 91 people texting or using their phone.
“I can’t tell you how many times I go down the roadway and someone goes zooming by me and we meet at the same red light,” she said. “What good did that do you to go that fast and disregard my safety?”
Garcia was killed in October when, police say, Tony Torrez pulled out a gun and shot at her family’s truck as they neared the Coors overpass on I-40. He faces an open count of murder.
The state Department of Transportation spent $200,000 on a billboard campaign and encouraging people to stay calm while driving. They also gave the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and Albuquerque Police Department each about $3,500 to pay their agents overtime for the operation.
New Mexico State Police used $7,000 from other traffic enforcement grants to pay their officers overtime for the operation.
State Police Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo said teams of law enforcers from the three agencies spent about 10 hours a week targeting just dangerous driving. By the end of the operation, they had worked about 108 hours, had written a total of 1,676 traffic citations and made 29 arrests.
Martinez said the tickets and associated fines, which in Bernalillo County range from $85 to $185 for going 1-10 mph over the speed limit, will help keep the streets safer by acting as a deterrent. She hopes the operation makes people think about the consequences of acting rashly while driving.
“Hopefully, you realize, especially with Lilly … to get upset and angry, you’re facing an open count of murder for pulling out a gun and shooting an innocent 4-year-old in front of her little brother,” Martinez said. “Take a breath, even if you’re a little late. What difference does it make?”