For Immediate Release
April 21, 2022
County Calls on Local Body Shops and Mechanics to Join the Initiative
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison today announced the implementation of the Lights On! Initiative and called on local auto body shops to participate in the program. As part of the Lights On! Initiative, Suffolk County police officers will soon have the ability to provide drivers with vouchers to pay for broken head and tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals instead of issuing a ticket for these minor equipment violations.
“For some of our residents, a minor traffic ticket can turn into so much more, causing an unnecessary financial burden, and even worse, trouble with the legal system,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Through the Lights On! Program, not only are we providing vouchers to drivers to fix their broken head or tail lights, we are working to build goodwill and trust between the SCPD and the communities they serve.”
Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said: “Through this program, instead of punishing drivers for broken lights, we can extend a helping hand to someone in need and help them fix the mechanical issue that they are experiencing and mitigate what often becomes a negative police encounter and downward spiral for community members in need. I encourage all of our local body shops here in Suffolk County to visit suffolkpd.org to sign up to participate in this great program.”
Suffolk County Legislature Minority Leader Jason Richberg said: “When I served on the county’s Police Reform & Reinvention Task Force last year, one of the new ideas I was most excited about was the ‘Lights On!’ initiative. Many of our residents struggle financially, and I truly believe that offering assistance by arming our officers with vouchers for drivers to pay for broken equipment instead of issuing tickets that can carry hefty fines will go a long way in building trust with the public while still keeping our roads safe.”
Legislator Tom Donnelly said: “By offering fixes instead of fines when addressing certain motor vehicle violations, the Lights On! initiative gives our police officers another tool in their commitment to fostering community trust. This program will directly address our ‘Safety First Campaign’ recommendation of finding alternative ways for our officers on the streets to address and respond to minor violations in the communities they know and serve.”
Sherman Patterson, Lights On! Program Director said: “The Lights On! program is a way to build relationships between police departments and the communities they serve. Instead of punishing drivers for broken lights, we can fix the mechanical issue and mitigate what often becomes a downward spiral for community members in need. We are giving officers a new tool on their duty belt that creates a positive interaction, especially needed in these tense times.”
Steve Castleton, local philanthropist said: “Nobody should have to choose between putting food on the table and fixing a light on their car. I’ve been there before, and my desire in helping to fund this program is that no one should have to make a choice between one or the other.”
Suffolk County joins dozens of police departments already partnering with Lights On! to make our roads and communities safer. Using grant funding and a donation from local philanthropist Steve Castleton, Lights On! will match the county’s initial investment of $35,000, for a total of $70,000.
Lights On! is a national program that provides bulb repair vouchers that officers may distribute in lieu of traffic tickets. The goal of the program is to replace certain citations for defective equipment with vouchers for free auto bulb repair with participating auto shops. As part of the program, SCPD Officers will issue repair vouchers to community members to address their minor equipment failure.
Drivers redeem the vouchers at participating auto body shops that are NYS DMV certified and vetted by Lights On. The driver’s bulb issue is fixed for free, up to $250 and Lights On! reimburses the auto shop for their costs. Drivers will have 14 days to use the voucher and remedy the defective equipment, and the SCPD will input voucher information in a Traffic Stop data system to ensure those who receive a voucher don’t get repeatedly stopped during the grace period.
The Lights On! Program is the latest initiative to be implemented as part of the County’s historic Police Reform and Reinvention plan. To address disparities in traffic stops and to focus on the most serious and potentially dangerous traffic infractions, the County’s historic Police Reform Plan called for deemphasizing minor traffic infractions and the implementation of a “Safety First Campaign”. The “Safety First Campaign” is a first-of-its-kind initiative on Long Island that promotes road and driver safety as well as community trust, while working to avoid placement of additional economic burden on those who are financially disadvantaged.
The campaign crafts an approach to public safety that substantially addresses the issue of equipment violations through education and is neither punitive nor will it impact motorists disproportionally. The SCPD has de-emphasized minor equipment violations by no longer including parking summonses and equipment violation totals in the Police Officer Monthly Activity Report.
The County’s reform plan seeks cultural change in the Suffolk County Police Department, with enhanced civilian oversight, increased accountability and transparency through the use of body cameras, and an expanded mental health crisis response among a plethora of other initiatives and policy changes. The reinvention plan, developed in collaboration with the County’s Police Reform task force and Co-Chairs Deputy County Executive Vanessa Baird-Streeter and Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman, focuses on seven major points for reform; Training and Continuing Education, Recruitment and Staffing, Community Policing, Traffic Stops, Arrests and Warrants, Mental Health Response and Police Systems, Accountability and Body Cameras.