One woman was cited twice for texting the same friend in 2018, last week

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Since Minnesota’s hands-free legislation went into effect Aug. 1, the Elk River Police Department has issued 216 citations and given 190 warnings for drivers using a wireless communication device, Elk River Police Capt. Bob Kluntz said.

The majority of them in August 2019 were warnings, as officers were in the process of educating motorists on the new law, he said.

“Very few were issued in April and early May of 2020, mainly due to COVID-19 and the fact that we were trying to reduce our public contact,” Kluntz said. “These stops have picked up again recently; since June 1st we have made 37 stops for distracted driving.”

Kluntz said the department has had some shifts focusing on watching for drivers using wireless communication devices, which accounts for some of the increase.

In one case, a 48-year-old Ramsey woman has been stopped twice by police for texting while driving.

The most recent incident happened at 4:26 p.m. June 12, when an officer who was stopped at the traffic light at Highway 169 and Elk Hills Drive saw her holding her cellphone with both hands and typing rapidly with both thumbs. When she saw the officer, she immediately put the phone down, according to the police report.

After being questioned by the officer, she eventually admitted to texting a friend, and said she had already received a citation for texting the same friend in the same location about a year ago.

Kluntz said she was previously cited on Jan. 27, 2018, at the intersection of Highway 169 and Main Street.

According to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, the hands-free law that went into effect Aug. 1 allows a driver to use their cellphone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone.

Under the new law, drivers may not hold their phone in their hand. Also, a driver may not use their phone at any time for video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at video or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing on the phone.

Hand-held phone use is allowed only to obtain emergency assistance, if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties, according to the Office of Traffic Safety.

Fake bills found in vehicle; two arrested

A vehicle containing counterfeit bills was stopped by police after a man allegedly tried to pass a fake bill at the Dairy Queen in Elk River.

Police were called to the restaurant at 403 Morton Ave. at 1:31 p.m. June 13 after an adult male tried to use a counterfeit bill to pay for food, according to the police report. The suspect left in a small purple sedan.

Officers located a vehicle matching the description traveling north on Jackson Avenue from School Street. The vehicle was stopped and the male passenger ultimately admitted to using the bill to pay, saying he thought it was real. A search of the vehicle produced counterfeit bills of various denominations, located throughout the vehicle, as well as a small amount of suspected methamphetamine, according to the police report. Kluntz said police arrested a St. Cloud woman, 38, for possessing counterfeit currency and controlled substance and a Foley man, 28, for possession of counterfeit currency.

Fake unemployment claims are filed

Two public employees have reported that their personal information, including their Social Security numbers, was used to apply for unemployment benefits.

In one case, a 42-year-old Elk River man who works for the city of Coon Rapids notified police June 12. A similar case involved a 51-year-old Elk River man who works for the city of Elk River.

Both applications were discovered by city staffs before any benefits were issued, according to the police report.

Woman cited for theft at Walmart

Police cited an Elk River woman, 53, for theft after she allegedly failed to scan several items while using the self check-out at Walmart, 18185 Zane St. in Elk River.

The theft was reported June 11.

Trailer reported stolen from business

A trailer was reported stolen June 11 from Wasteland Performance in Elk River.

The theft happened in the 17800 block of Industrial Circle.

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