Lancaster County Police Department going undercover to catch distracted, aggressive drivers

MANHEIM TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. --  A Lancaster County Police Department is going undercover to catch drivers breaking the law.

It's all part of an aggressive driving campaign, and so far, officers say it's been pretty successful.

Police officers in unmarked cars will be following other vehicles, like dump trucks or tractor trailers.

Meanwhile, cops in civilian clothes will be in those trucks and irregular vehicles, looking for people either speeding, running through stop signs, or texting and driving.

“Hello, Sergeant Piacentino, Manheim Township Police. I need to see your license, registration, and insurance, please!"

Sergeant Michael Piacentino says it can be difficult for Manheim Township police officers to cite distracted drivers.

“It’s hard to say definitively, ‘yes the phone was involved in that," he explained.

Police officers say it’s not enough for them to see someone holding their phone because they could be making or answering a phone call.

They have to see someone doing something, like scrolling through Instagram or texting.

"We’re seeing more instances of distracted driving," said Piacentino.

That's why officers will be periodically patrolling undercover, in unconventional vehicles, like township dump trucks, while wearing regular clothes.

They’re looking for people on their phones driving aggressively.

Some people here in Lancaster County say these patrols are a good idea.

“Honestly, anything you can do just to make people realize what the consequences are of their actions, and how it can endanger other people around them," said Cassie George, a student at Millersville University.

"Even if the undercover police aren’t directly focused on your car, just knowing it’s a possibility is enough for people to take it a lot more seriously," said Zoe Crawford, also a student at Millersville University.

Other drivers aren’t a fan of the undercover patrols.

“I think it’s just going a little bit too far, but it is an issue," said John Sauder of Manheim Township.

Luckily for one driver, a traffic stop ended in just a warning.

Yesterday, Manheim Township police pulled over 17 people in a four-hour time period. They'll be continuously taking part in the undercover patrolling for the foreseeable future.

This detail was funded by a special grant through a Pennsylvania Aggressive Driving program that pays overtime for officers to conduct aggressive driving enforcement details, so that the number of officers on regular patrol is not impacted.