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Saturday, May 30, 2009 3:36 AM

Click It or Ticket Insanity; 10% of Texans Have Arrest Warrants

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Cash strapped cities, states, and municipalities are increasingly looking to raise revenue by issuing tickets instead of cutting expenses.

JL writes ...

Hi Mish
I have had 3 different people tell me they got tickets from the CHP or San Francisco Police over the weekend. One ticket was written for having tinted windows. The officer in SF wasn’t even interested in the fact that the windows were tinted by the Audi Company and by regulation.

On one section of 101, where it’s not “really a highway” the CHP were lying in wait behind bushes-in a multicar queue for a rapid rollover of wallets. The motherload, a carpool violation, was enforced en masse on the Bay Bridge on Friday prior to the holiday. That’s 300 bucks a pop and I saw about 6 tickets being written where normally I see about 2 a week being enforced.

Public enforcement of law is fine, but it’s pretty obvious that the authorities have more in mind this year. Click it or TICKET. As if it’s really a big problem these days!
CHP Memorial Day Weekend Maximum Enforcement

Revenue enhancement was in full swing over Memorial day weekend as noted in CHP Memorial Day Weekend Maximum Enforcement.
The three-day holiday is a Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP) for the CHP. All available officers will be patrolling the roadways during the MEP, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday, May 22 and extends until midnight on Monday, May 25.

The CHP’s maximum enforcement effort is also part of the state’s recently launched 2009 Memorial Day Next Generation Click It or Ticket mobilization. The start-of-summer campaign is supported by $3 million in traffic safety grants awarded by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The CHP’s primary mission is to prevent loss of life and injury to all motorists. That mission parallels the Strategic Highway Safety plan, a roadmap for improving safety on the state’s roadways that all state traffic safety organizations follow. An element of the plan is to improve the use of passenger restraints.

The Memorial Day MEP is also an Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (CARE) holiday. Operation CARE is a joint program of the nation’s highway patrols that places special safety emphasis on interstate highways during holiday periods. CARE highways in California include Interstates 80, 40, 15 and 5.
Dallas County Half Its Annual Revenue From Fines And Fees

Inquiring minds are investigating interesting trend regarding fines in Texas. Please consider Dallas County looks to traffic ticket revenue for budget shortfall.
The February issue of Car and Driver includes a story describing how many jurisdictions are giving more traffic tickets as a revenue booster during tough financial times.

In Texas, to my mind, we've already taken this strategy about as far as it can go, to the point that, right now, more than 10% of Texas adults have outstanding arrest warrants - mostly for traffic tickets.

Dallas County represents perhaps the most extreme example of this trend in Texas. According to the Dallas Morning News ("Dallas county to vote on withholding vehicle registrations for those who owe fines," Feb. 9), "Unlike most counties, Dallas County gets slightly more than half of its annual revenue from fines and fees. Other counties rely more heavily on property-tax revenue."

Now Dallas plans to step up the pressure on even more on folks who can't or don't pay traffic fines, denying vehicle registration to drivers with outstanding traffic tickets. Again, we're talking about more than 10% of the adult population!

It seems almost unfathomable to me that a majority of county revenue would come from fines and fees. That's an untenable economic arrangement, but I suppose when more than 10% of adults owe fines, there's a deep well to draw from, though it's still crappy public policy.

More likely, more drivers will simply drive unregistered vehicles, which will cause them to accumulate more tickets they can't pay and creating a vicious cycle that makes the situation more chronic and intractable. And since Texas already holds up vehicle registration for drivers without auto insurance, the plan will almost certainly increase the number of uninsured drivers on the road. Just what we need, huh?
More than 10% of Texans currently wanted by police

Texas State Senator Eliot Shapleigh is talking about Working on the Chain Gang.
A couple of weeks ago, the local paper printed names of El Pasoans with outstanding arrest warrants. 78,000 El Pasoans made the paper! What’s going on here?

Here are the facts. Of the 78,000 almost all are for moving violations. When we compared Austin, same story: 11% of Austin has outstanding arrest warrants.

Nearly one in ten Texans can’t pay: students, single mothers, working families, essentially low and even middle income Texans whose income can’t keep up with gas, insurance, taxes and tickets too.

Our office has interviewed several Texans listed for outstanding warrants to determine the impact to them. Names were changed in order to preserve anonymity.

Jane Smith who works in El Paso has close to $3,500 dollars in outstanding tickets. She is behind on her rent. Under Texas Driver Responsibility laws she will also face over $3,000 in surcharges.

During the early years of Texas, thousands came here from England and the East Coast to escape debt (and debtor’s prisons). Today, our own tax system uses the threat of prison to collect trauma care money.

Working on the chain gang makes it awfully hard to pay for a ticket.
More Tickets in Hard Times

Car and Driver is reporting More Tickets in Hard Times.
Motorists beware: In some communities, police are issuing tickets during these hard times at a rate higher than ever in what critics say is an attempt to raise revenue in order to offset budget shortfalls.

Take, for example, the metropolitan Detroit area, which has been reeling economically much longer than has the rest of the country. The number of moving violations issued has increased by at least 50 percent in 18 communities in the metro area since 2002—and 11 of those municipalities have seen ticketing increases of 90 percent or more.

The president of a state police union isn’t pretending it doesn’t happen. James Tignanelli, president of the Police Officers Association of Michigan union, says, “When elected officials say, ‘We need more money,’ they can’t look to the department of public works to raise revenues, so where do they find it? Police departments.

“A lot of police chiefs will tell you the goal is to have nobody speeding through their community, but heaven forbid if it should actually happen—they’d be out of money,” Tignanelli says.

Police Chief Michael Reaves of Utica, Michigan, says the role of law enforcement has changed over the years. “When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement, but if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues,” he says. “That’s just the reality nowadays.”

Some police officers, such as Sgt. Richard Lyons of Trenton, Michigan, say they don’t like being pressured to write more tickets.

“That’s not what I got into law enforcement for—to hand out chintzy tickets,” says Lyons, a 21-year veteran. “Things have changed from when I first started in this job. There was a time when you’d come in, do your job, and go home.

But I’ve never felt pressure to bring revenue to the city like we do now.

“It’s a whole different ball game now,” Lyons says. “They’re trying to use police officers to balance the budget on the backs of drivers, and it’s too bad. The people we count on to support us and help us when we’re on the road are the ones who end up paying the bills, and they’re ticked off about it. We might as well just go door to door and tell people, ‘Slide us $100 now since your 16-year-old is going to end up paying us anyway when he starts driving.’ You can’t blame people for getting upset.”
I got a speeding ticket in California earlier this month. I feel fortunate actually since I keep my proof of insurance in my glove compartment (at home in Illinois). I never thought about the need to carry a copy when traveling. I easily could have received two tickets. The officer decided to let it pass. $372 was a big enough fine as it was.

Last week I was stopped a half mile from where I live. I have a tendency to start driving then put on seat belts later. The officer let me go with a verbal warning because I live in the village.

Two days ago I was near Woodfield Mall, a huge shopping center in Schaumburg Illinois. Police were parked near all the entrances and exits. Three police cars and a motorcycle were situated at one key spot. It was the mother of all Click It or Ticket operations. 6 people were pulled over in 30 seconds when I went by. I bet they issued hundreds of tickets that day. 1000 would not surprise me.

Leave the mall without your seat belt on and get a ticket.

In addition, traffic "eyes" are sprouting up everywhere near where I live. Is this making anyone safer? I doubt it. Then again it's not supposed to. Moreover, it's so out of hand that 10% of Texans in some major cities have arrest warrants. How's that for complete insanity?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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