Small towns in Texas are using aggressive ticketing strategies on speeding drivers to raise revenue for their budgets. The Houston Chronicle analyzed traffic stop and ticketing numbers reported to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to identify which Texas police departments’ officers pulled over the most drivers. Small towns situated on busy high-speed thoroughfares where speed limits quickly dropped and departments with fewer than a dozen officers were characteristic of the state’s most aggressive traffic enforcers.
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- In 2019, Texas was amongst the country’s top states with communities whose budgets depended heavily on collecting traffic fines.
- In 2020, the city of Corrigan was amongst the most aggressive enforcers in Texas; the town’s 12 police officers pulled over 8,100 motorists – 600 per officer. Officers averaged more than 500 stops a year in only .04 percent of the cities analyzed.
- The money the city of Palmer collected from fines made up 40% of its 2019-2020 general funds.
- The city of Lott raised $651,251 from municipal court fines, which is equal to over a third of its general fund.
- In Riesel, 87 percent of motorists who were stopped in 2020 drove away with a ticket. These tickets made up over 50 percent of the town’s general fund.
- To curb aggressive ticketing, Texas prohibits towns with less than 5,000 people from using radars. Municipalities that generate more than 20 percent of their annual revenue from speed enforcement must report their earnings; if it rises above 30 percent, the extra must be turned over to the state.
- Although setting ticketing quotas is illegal in Texas, officers said they recently faced consequences if they didn’t cite enough drivers for traffic violations.
Author(s): St. John Barned-Smith and Eric Dexhemer
Publication: Houston Chronicle