We're Listening - A Citizen Asked a Question . . .
Traffic Fines Must Bring in a Bundle for City Hall, Right?
A few weeks ago, the police staff noticed a discussion on Facebook, with citizens making comments and some wildly inaccurate statements about traffic enforcement and ticket revenue. We all know that traffic tickets are the easy way to balance any city budget and pull in tons of revenue, right?
The police department emphasizes the use of the lowest level of enforcement to gain the highest level of voluntary compliance. Officers have discretion to issue a verbal warning, written warning and/or traffic citations or in the case of traffic crimes make an arrest. Officers look at the totality of circumstances when enforcing traffic laws, not at generating the most citations. The ultimate goal with traffic enforcement is to reduce traffic crashes and ensure the safety of not only vehicles but also pedestrians and bicyclists. Traffic enforcement is not a huge revenue generator for the City, and it should not be. The revenue generated from tickets and arrests is listed below along with the cost of operating the municipal court, jail costs and medical care of prisoners.
The result of our efforts with traffic enforcement has been a multi-year reduction in traffic crashes, and that is the primary reason for traffic enforcement. There are secondary reasons - we find many, many wanted people driving, we make drug arrests and seize illegal narcotics from traffic stops, not to mention suspended drivers or individuals with no vehicle insurance.
Oh, we hear about a one or two Facebook warriors complaining about seatbelt enforcement. Yet only 3% of all traffic citations last year involved a seatbelt violation, usually with a warning for some other driving violation.
How Many Tickets?
Let's take a look at revenue from those pesky traffic tickets. First, not everyone that our officers stop for a traffic violation receives a ticket. We want officers to use common sense in their enforcement. They have the discretion (as all police have) to look at the totality of the circumstances for each vehicle stop. Does it make the most sense to issue a verbal warning, a written warning, issue a citation for one violation or several?
Of the 2,040 vehicle stops made last year, 736 citations were issued or roughly 36% of vehicle stops resulted in a traffic ticket.
Ok, you might say, but what about that big bundle of money that City Hall must get from tickets as well as other misdemeanor crimes like disorderly conduct, assaults, and thefts? The Municipal Court must be a real money maker, right?
In 2020 the net positive revenue from municipal court cases was $1,295.08 which went to the City's General Fund, in 2021 $14,274.25 went to the General Fund, and in 2022 $15,075.48 went to the General Fund.
Where did all of the money go then? Court operations, assessment fees that are required to be paid to the State, daily jail charges for prisoners lodged in the county jail on municipal charges (misdemeanors) and prisoner medical costs.
You can see the play-by-play costs associated with enforcing misdemeanor and traffic charges by visiting our NEW Traffic Safety Corner page on the Parsons Police web site at: www.parsonspd.com/traffic-safety-corner