SOUTHERN PATROL BUREAU – DISTRICT SIX
2016 TROOPER OF THE YEAR

MATTHEW AUERBACH

Trooper Auerbach has been with the Department since January of 2013 and has been assigned to Casa Grande in District Six.  Prior to employment with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Trooper Auerbach was an officer with the Marana Police Department and also served in the United States Army.

Throughout the year, Trooper Auerbach conducted 1427 traffic stops, investigated 50 traffic collisions, assisted 192 motorists in need, issued 146 civil speed citations, 46 criminal speed citations, 29 distracted driver citations and warnings, 35 child restraint citations, 97 adult restraint citations, 357 non-hazardous citations.  Trooper Auerbach impounded 78 vehicles and conducted 288 commercial vehicle inspections.  Trooper Auerbach also recovered 5 occupied stolen vehicles and 1 un-occupied stolen vehicle.  In addition, he arrested 55 persons, to include: 11 for misdemeanor DUI, 2 for felony DUI, 15 misdemeanor warrants, and 5 for felony warrants. Trooper Auerbach also submitted 23 misdemeanor arrest long form charges and 57 felony arrest long form charges to the Pinal County Attorney Office.

Trooper Auerbach continuously looks beyond the traffic stop and educates the members of district six on how to become better criminal interdictors.  Trooper Auerbach has even been District Six’s criminal interdictor of the year. Trooper Auerbach truly is an informal leader within the Arizona Department of Public Safety.  Trooper Auerbach consistently sets the example for other troopers, been acting supervisor for weeks at a time, and is looked up to by new troopers in District Six.

One of Trooper Auerbach’s many drug seizures occurred in August on I-10 eastbound at milepost 183.  Trooper Auerbach looking beyond a commercial motor vehicle inspection and parking violation seized 2.5 pounds of cocaine in the cab of a truck tractor.  The defendant was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison at the Arizona Department of Corrections and 5 years of probation.

Trooper Auerbach exemplifies the department’s mission to protect human life and property by enforcing state laws by being a certified fraudulent document examiner, general instructor, level one commercial vehicle inspector, and a National Criminal Enforcement Association interdictor.

It is with great pleasure that Trooper Matthew Auerbach is recognized as the District Six Southern Patrol Bureau Trooper of the Year.

Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Lugo – Highway Patrol Division

Trooper Auerbach conducted 1427 traffic stops, investigated 50 traffic collisions, assisted 192 motorists in need, issued 146 civil speed citations, 46 criminal speed citations, 29 distracted driver citations and warnings, 35 child restraint citations, 97 adult restraint citations, 357 non-hazardous citations, impounded 78 vehicles, conducted 288 commercial vehicle inspections, recovered 5 occupied stolen vehicles and 1 un-occupied stolen vehicle.  In addition, he arrested 55 persons, to include: 11 for misdemeanor DUI, 2 for felony DUI, 15 misdemeanor warrants, and 5 for felony warrants.    Trooper Auerbach also submitted 23 misdemeanor arrest long form charges and 57 felony arrest long form charges.  Trooper Auerbach is a general instructor, level one commercial vehicle inspector, certified fraudulent document examiner, and a National Criminal Enforcement Association interdictor.  Trooper Auerbach is highly respected amongst his cohorts. It is with great pleasure Trooper Matthew Auerbach is recognized as the Southern Patrol Bureau District Six Trooper of the year.

From the Casa Grande Dispatch
column and photo by Bill Coates

Trooper Auerbach got a message over dispatch. “It’s a burgundy semi with a white trailer,” dispatcher said. “Has the driver’s-side wheel that’s wobbling and appears to be ready to come off.” That didn’t sound safe at all. And we were in the safety corridor. I was riding shotgun, in the sense I had the passenger seat. No actual weaponry. I rode with Trooper Auerbach to get some idea about how Highway Patrol troopers do their job inside the safety corridors. The Department of Public Safety promises stricter enforcement inside them. Four have been set up around the state, as part of a two-year trial. They’re freeway stretches that rate high in crashes leading to death and injury. It’s all in the numbers, according to Capt. Glen Swavely, Casa Grande District commander. “This is the age of data policing, focusing on those areas where there’s the most need,” Swavely said by phone.

His troopers patrol one of those safety corridors. It’s a 23-mile stretch of Interstate 10, running from north of the Gila River south to Exit 185 (Pinal Avenue). Signs along the way tell motorists they’re in the safety corridor. Anybody who’s driven from Casa Grande to Phoenix — and back — can’t help but notice them. Anybody who’s not asleep at the wheel, that is. I rode the safety corridor with Auerbach on Monday. He asked I not use his first name. He does undercover work as well. He’s a veteran with two tours in Iraq. He’s been in law enforcement for eight years, four of those with DPS. He loves his job, dogs and Beatles. So we got along fine.

Before taking the call on the wobbly-wheeled truck, he stopped two speeders. He caught them with a lidar gun. It’s like radar but it uses a laser instead of radio waves. Auerbach first parked just north of the Gila River. He aimed his lidar at cars and trucks headed toward Phoenix. It can clock speeds from the far side of a football field. Here’s what the safety corridor means to Auerbach and other troopers. “There will be additional focus on collision-causing violations,” Auerbach said. They include unsafe lane changes, tailgating and speeding. Arizona freeways have generous speed limits to begin with. Outside urban areas, it’s 75 miles per hour. Many motorists treat that as a suggestion. The real-world speed limit to them is 80 or even 85.

I asked Auerbach what he considered speeding. “Seventy-six.” He hastened to add troopers still issue citations outside the safety corridor. There’s no free pass. Safety corridors went live last December. In the first full month, motorists on the I-10 stretch received 419 citations, up from 204 in that same period last year. Staff writer Kevin Reagan noted the jump in the Feb. 13 Dispatch. In reporting DPS figures, he also pointed out that, overall, safety corridors only slightly curbed crashes. The four corridors saw 619 collisions between Dec. 12 and Feb. 9. That’s five less than a year earlier. Of course, that’s just one month-plus out of 24. In time, more tickets might mean better driving habits.

Most drivers passing through Auerbach’s lidar apparently got the memo. They seemed like a well-behaved bunch. A trooper by the side of the road apparently works wonders. The lidar logged speeds from 60 to 77, and everything in between. Then came 80. A good candidate for strict enforcement. But not as good as the Toyota Camry that followed, going 83. Auerbach quickly caught up to it. Brett, a 30-year-old banker from Sierra Vista, was headed to the OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale. She was late for meeting a friend. I didn’t ask for a last name. Why embarrass her? She was just minding her own business speeding down the freeway.

Later, Auerbach pulled over a motorcyclist headed to Casa Grande. David, 51, was on his way to work. His motorcycle, he explained, accelerates with just a flick of the wrist. Auerbach clocked him flicking along at 85. Any faster could have meant a criminal citation. That’s not your average speeding ticket, taken care of with a half day in driver’s safety class and a half week’s wages. It could mean a hefty fine, arrest and jail time. David went on his way, only now a bit more slowly. Then came the call on the wobbly-wheeled semi.

An astute motorist had called it in. I think the same motorist kept pace with the truck, giving updates on location. Auerbach was near the northern edge of the Casa Grande District, milepost 169. The truck had already rolled past. “They’re eastbound at 173 at this time,” dispatch said. Eastbound I-10 runs south as it approaches Casa Grande.

Auerbach got on the road. He had a semi to catch, before it lost a wheel. I’m pretty sure he’d be on it with or without a safety corridor. “It’s very hazardous,” he said. A semi’s wheel weighs several hundred pounds, he added. “It could hit a vehicle. It could cause a rollover.” And the truck might crash, too. And a truck with trailer weighs a lot more than the wheel. The dispatcher gave running updates. “Eastbound approaching Casa Blanca … eastbound from 177 … eastbound from 181.” Auerbach radioed back: “Approaching 180, trying to get through traffic.” The traffic was clogging up the two southbound lanes. He had to make his way through cars lined up like trains in both of them.

Most of I-10 past Casa Grande, en route to Tucson, has three lanes each way. The stretch from Wild Horse Pass to Casa Grande at Exit 185 has two. And that’s no longer enough. Too many cars, too little freeway. “It’s been identified as a need,” said Tim Tait, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. It’s an unfunded need. Beyond the money, issues of right of way need to be worked out with the Gila River Indian Community. For now, the state is making do with a safety corridor. And DPS, for one, puts its money on enforcement. It’s not the road that causes collisions, Capt. Swavely said. “It’s through human error.”

Auerbach finally broke through and caught up to the truck, just north of McCartney Road. The wheel apparently wasn’t the issue. A tire on the trailer had a partially bald tread. Enough to create a wobble. And enough for Auerbach to order the truck off the road until the tire gets replaced. He followed the driver to Love’s truck stop, about 10 miles down the freeway. Auerbach is certified to inspect commercial trucks. And inspect it he did. He found a few minor things, like discolored blinker signals. The tire was the real hazard. It would be fixed. And the safety corridor would be one truck safer.

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