Briefing Room: A look at traffic enforcement in Seal Beach

Officer Nick LaCarra

This week we received another special request to discuss our traffic enforcement efforts.  We have received some complaints recently from Old Town residents who have seen cars driving a bit too fast on Ocean Avenue.  Instead of just writing about that particular issue, I thought it would be a good time to introduce another one of Seal Beach’s finest!  I’m excited to introduce Sun readers to Motorcycle Officer Nick LaCarra.

Motor Officer LaCarra is another true Seal Beach local.  After graduating from Los Alamitos High School, he joined the United States Marine Corps where he worked as a machine gunner and later an explosives detection canine handler.  He was deployed to Afghanistan twice.  After his military career, Nick joined the Los Alamitos Police Department for a year and a half before coming to the Seal Beach PD, where he’s been for almost four years.  When he isn’t working, he likes to play ice hockey and golf.  He probably won’t want me to share this but he’s afraid of scary movies…

Officer LaCarra and I chatted about a few of the most common questions we get asked about motorcycle officers.  Here are the questions and Officer LaCarra’s responses:

• Question:  Why do some officers ride motorcycles instead of driving cars?

• Answer: A lot of it has to do with maneuverability.  We can see traffic better on the bike, and we can get to calls faster because we can maneuver around traffic.  Plus it is really fun to ride.

• Question:  Do motor officers have a quota of tickets they have to write each month?

• Answer:  No.  Absolutely not.  That would be illegal.  Although we do write traffic tickets when we see violations, if I’m in an area and don’t write any tickets I consider it a success because that means people are obeying the laws.

• Question:  Why do you write tickets?

• Answer: The short answer is to keep people safe.  We know that nobody likes getting a ticket, but studies have shown that the best way to prevent traffic collisions is directed enforcement and police presence.  When people see police cars or motorcycles, they slow down and stop doing whatever they’re doing that might be a violation.

• Question:  We’ve received several complaints about certain issues such as speeding, or U-turn violations in certain areas of the city.  What do you do when you get those complaints?

• Answer: We go out and conduct directed enforcement.  That means we monitor specific areas for specific violations.  If we don’t see many violations, then we know that there might not be as big of a problem as reported.  If we do see the reported violations, we will enforce them.  Eventually the word will get out and people will (hopefully) stop committing the violation.

• Question:  Is it mandatory for motor officers to have mustaches?

• Answer: No, but you look cooler if you do.

• Question:  Do you have a mustache?

• Answer: Yes!

• Question:  Do you wear aviator sunglasses?

• Answer: No, I’m not cool enough to pull off that look (author’s note: He is cool enough).

• Question:  So you just write tickets all day with your cool mustache?

• Answer: No.  Motor officers are traffic investigators too.  That means we investigate hit and runs, traffic accidents, and other roadway issues.  I’m part of the West Orange County Serious Traffic Accident Reconstruction (STAR) Team.  Seal Beach is part of this team with Los Alamitos, Cypress, Westminster, La Palma and Fountain Valley Police Departments.  Serious traffic accidents are investigated much like a detective would any other crime where someone is seriously hurt.  We all help each other when there is a bad crash.

• Question:  What type of training did you have to do to become a motor officer?

• Answer: After the basic police academy and six month field training, there’s another month long motor school and street training with a senior motor officer. There is also ongoing monthly training to maintain our skills.

• Question:  Do you have any safety tips for Seal Beach motorists?

• Answer: Make sure you check your blind spots (and look twice for motorcycles) before you change lanes.  If you are holding your cell phone in your hand, but it is on speaker phone, it isn’t hands-free as the law requires.  Make sure you come to a full and complete stop BEHIND the limit line at intersections.  Always yield for pedestrians.  The speed limit on Westminster Avenue between Bolsa Chica Road and Seal Beach Boulevard is currently 40 miles per hour.  Pay attention to road signs like no U-turns.  Be a courteous and cautious driver.  It is always better to get somewhere a few minutes late than to cause a collision or get a ticket.

Sun readers, I hope you enjoyed this week’s article and the introduction to Officer LaCarra.  If you have a specific traffic concern, please call us on our non-emergency line 562-594-7232 and we can ask Officer LaCarra and his partner, Motor Officer Keith Phan, to monitor the area.  Please keep your questions coming!  Email them to!  Thanks for driving safely!