Reason.com recently published a list of eleven U.S. towns where their police forces were either disbanded or their autonomy as a governmental entity was dissolved because of an addiction to, and dependence on, ticket revenue. We thought it would be informative to present excerpts from Reason’s article for those cities along with select driver-sourced comments about those same locations to the NMA’s National Speed Trap Exchange at https://www.speedtrap.org. Check out the first six speed trap cities featured in Part 1 by Clicking Here.
Revenue hunting under the guise of traffic law enforcement is a crime against the public. While these cities eventually got caught, they showed that crime can pay.
St. George, Missouri
Residents voted in 2011 to disincorporate after a series of scandals, mostly involving its police department. The St. Louis County town had just over 1,300 people at the time.
“St. George disbanded its police force in 2008, handing over traffic enforcement to the county sheriff’s office. In 2011, a local alderman, Carmen Wilkerson, ousted the incumbent mayor in a write-in campaign. Wilkerson ran on a platform of becoming St. George’s last mayor; she and a slate of other candidates wanted to dissolve the town, especially after learning that the incumbent mayor was plotting to revive the old speed trap by contracting with another town’s police force. Wilkerson’s campaign slogan? ‘Save Us From Our City.’”
“Because of the serious harassment video available on YouTube, this small town was dissolved and the area is now patrolled by St. Louis County police. However, the drastic drop in speed limit is still there just after the sharp curve (they get you before you can adjust speed), so the county still uses this trap to make quotas at the end of the month.”
Maricopa is located about 40 miles southwest of Bakersfield. Its population has hovered around 1,100 for most of the past couple of decades.
“In the 2000s, the town of Maricopa gained a reputation for targeting drivers, especially farm workers, in the hopes that they’d be undocumented immigrants, thus allowing the small police department to impound their cars without much fuss.”
“A Kern County grand jury report accused Maricopa police of targeting Latino motorists and seizing vehicles from undocumented immigrants. The grand jury report urged the debt-ridden town to get rid of its police department and then get rid of itself through disincorporation.
“Maricopa chose the former, disbanding its police force in 2012 and contracting with the county for law enforcement.”
Speedtrap.org (prior to switching to county traffic enforcement):
“Police idling on side streets as you enter and leave the town, and at every stop sign. Speed limit is posted at 55 mph approaching the city and drops to 20 mph in a short distance. It is so bad that the town citizens have erected two signs warning motorists of the problem.”
Macks Creek, Missouri
The now-unincorporated community is 60 miles north of Springfield. Its population was 244 at the 2010 census. It gave up its legal status in 2012.
“If a small town has a law named after it, it’s probably not for a good reason. Such was the case with Macks Creek, an obnoxious speed trap that inspired the Missouri legislature to pass the Macks Creek Law in 1995. This bill capped the percentage of annual revenue that towns could generate from ticket fines at 45 percent.
“The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that, at Macks Creek’s peak, the town of 472 was issuing 2,900 tickets a year. Municipal court fines accounted for three-fourths of its revenue.”
“This used to be the biggest speed trap in Missouri until the state changed the laws a few years ago, and the city was audited. They sit at the bottom of the hill, on 54, and wait for you to come down. The speed limit changes very quickly, and the hill is very steep, so your speed will increase very quickly as well.”
Patton Village, Texas
The city of Patton Village, population of under 1,500, is just north of Houston along Interstate 69 (Texas State Highway 59 in the area).
“Patton Village, Texas, neither disbanded its police force nor disincorporated itself. But the place still warrants special mention.
“The town annexed a mile-long strip of U.S. 59 in 1971 and promptly embraced highway robbery, deploying unmarked police cars and radar guns. It became such a well-known Texas speed trap that a state representative introduced and successfully passed legislation in 1989 to cap the money that small towns could generate from traffic enforcement at 30 percent of their total budgets. During its peak, Patton Village raised more than 90 percent of its annual revenue from traffic tickets.”
“They [the police] use the side of the bridge to hide.”
The city, with an estimated population of 2,200, is about an hour’s drive from Savannah.
“Ludowici, Georgia, was one of the first speed-trap towns to gain national notoriety. Situated on the U.S. 301 route to Jacksonville, it became infamous in the 1950s for extorting tourists on their way to Florida.
“Ludowici was a genuine innovator in the field. In addition to running a typical speed trap, the town installed a stoplight that suddenly changed from green to red with no yellow in between. According to varying accounts, the light was controlled by an alert observer holding a remote switch while stationed in a barbershop or a bus station. A Ludowici police officer was parked at the intersection to collect on-the-spot fines from drivers who ran the light.”
“Ludowici Georgia is known as Georgia’s Speed Trap. Speed limits are enforced by local city police and Highway State Patrol whether you are heading towards Hinesville or Jesup on Hwy 82 or towards Glennville on Hwy 341 or towards Brunswick on Hwy 431/17. Never a good thing to speed through Long County, especially with out-of-state or county tags.”
As Reason notes, “The good news is that speed traps are a terrible business strategy in the long term. So let the stories above serve as cautionary tales for any municipality looking greedily at a busy stretch of highway. Like customers avoiding a business with a bad reputation, motorists eventually learn to shun such places whenever possible.”
That is precisely why we created The National Speed Trap Registry. It is also why we encourage drivers who encounter over-zealous and unfair speed enforcement to share their observations with the public via the NMA online database.
Bonus speed trap coverage
None of the following cities are in danger of ending their traffic enforcement efforts or shuttering city hall, but they do have the most individual speed trap reports to Speedtrap.org over the last 15 years. Drivers beware, or better yet, read the reports fellow motorists filed with the NMA over the intervening years.
Houston, Texas: 309 reports
Las Vegas, Nevada: 218
Toronto, Ontario: 188
Denver, Colorado: 181
Jacksonville, Florida: 149
San Diego, California: 126
San Antonio, Texas: 125
Los Angeles, California: 124
Austin, Texas: 123
Dallas, Texas: 123
Chicago, Illinois: 121
Colorado Springs, Colorado: 114
Dishonorable Mentions: Livonia, Michigan; Orlando, Florida; Mississauga, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Brooklyn, New York; San Jose, California; Tucson, Arizona; Staten Island, New York; Indianapolis, Indiana; Portland, Oregon.
VISIT NMA Website: www.motorists.org
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