Trending Topics

N.C. city to create civilian traffic investigation unit

The traffic investigators will not be able to cite or arrest drivers; they will conduct traffic investigations, write reports and assist drivers with road issues

Greensboro Police Department

The traffic investigator vehicles have yellow and gray stripes along with words “Greensboro Motorist Assistance Patrol” and “Civilian Traffic Investigator” on the side.

Greensboro Police Department via Facebook

By Kevin Griffin
News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — They wear uniforms and if you’re in a crash, you may see them pull up behind you with lights flashing.

But the new traffic investigators working for the Greensboro Police Department cannot carry weapons, make arrests or issue citations.

The civilian traffic investigators aren’t sworn police officers but will be a key piece of the department’s response to motor-vehicle crashes going forward.

Last year, the N.C. General Assembly passed a law allowing municipalities across North Carolina to hire the civilian investigators. Previous legislation had allowed investigators in Durham and Wilmington.

The law outlines the powers and limitations of the position. Civilian investigators may only respond to crashes involving property damage. They can write reports but cannot arrest drivers or cite them for wrongdoing.

Sgt. A.D. Reed of the Greensboro Police Department said dispatchers will use details in 911 calls to determine whether the investigators will be sent out. If there is any uncertainty or any indication of injury or death, officers will be sent instead.

Civilian investigators must also distinguish themselves from officers in the vehicles they drive and uniforms they wear.

The traffic investigator vehicles have yellow and gray stripes along with words “Greensboro Motorist Assistance Patrol” and “Civilian Traffic Investigator” on the side.

The vehicles have no sirens but do have flashing yellow lights. Reed said drivers are required to move over for investigators when they are working scenes on the side of the road.

In addition to wreck investigations, civilian investigators will also be involved with assisting stranded motorists and controlling traffic during emergencies and major events.

Civilian investigators carry a variety of tools for assisting in emergency situations, from traffic cones and jacks to road flares and fuel cans. Reed said the fuel cans are left empty. In the event a driver runs out of gas, the investigator will drive the person to pay for the gas and then bring them back to fill up the vehicle.

While the state law requires civilian investigators to go through a training course, Reed said Greensboro adds on additional topics for their three-week class, including instruction in de-escalation, department policies and procedures, radio communications, courtroom testimony and how to spot signs of intoxication so that an officer may be called to the scene.

Greensboro also requires investigators to complete five weeks of field training, while the law only mandates four weeks.

Under state law, municipalities cannot use the civilian investigators to replace or reduce the number of officer positions at a department. Reed said the department sees the investigators as an asset that will free up time for officers.

“All the time, we’re looking to try to get our officers out doing what they need to be doing, the sworn officers,” Reed said. “Any time that we can have an ability to have specialized people do stuff (is a plus) — the training they’ve received is actually more than a basic patrol officer gets in wreck investigations.”

He said the city averages 6,000 property-damages crash a year out of a total of 10,000 or so.

Investigators start with a salary of nearly $46,000 and the department is currently allocated five investigator positions.

All those positions have been filled and the first investigators are set to finish their field training and begin working independently on May 8.

Nicole Craneweir is among the first investigators to start work. Previously a high school teacher in High Point, Craneweir said she became interested in becoming an investigator after hearing about it on the news.

She is now working in the field as part of her training and estimates she has responded to four or five crashes a day in the past two weeks. Craneweir also assisted with traffic control for First Lady Jill Biden’s visit to Greensboro earlier this week.

"(The public) may not know who we are now, but they will be seeing a lot of us and their support would mean a lot to us because again they are our neighbors. We’re just fellow civilians,” Craneweir said.


(c)2024 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)
Visit the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.