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Speed trap towns - The online computery journal thingy of a turtle

Apr. 9th, 2007

03:54 am - Speed trap towns

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Here's why a lot of people refuse to set foot in Texas: because of places like Estelline that make all their money from speeding tickets. This news article makes me feel vaguely ill, as it seems to glorify someone whose job is to steal.

The police force of Estelline, and in particular the officer profiled in the story linked above, are basically legal muggers. Speed-trap towns like these are predatory, unfriendly, and hypocritical. I say "hypocritical" because the stated duty of the police is to stop lawbreakers, yet in order to function, they hope for more people to break the law.

The speed limit drops suddenly from 70 mph to 50 mph. This is one of the symptoms of a speed trap. Sure, they say it's clearly marked, but why don't they do like many towns along US 59 in East Texas and put up a series of speed limit signs, each reducing the speed by 5 or 10 mph? Why force motorists to suddenly drop 20 mph in one go? Because they care more about making money than safety.

If you visit Texas, keep a scrupulous eye on your speedometer. And, if possible, stick to the interstates.

Current Mood: cynicalcynical
Current Music: The Apples in Stereo - Open Eyes

Comments:

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From:shelbystripes
Date:April 9th, 2007 11:33 am (UTC)
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One of the myriad political problems in Texas is the unwillingness to admit that you need money to pay for things, and taxes can be a reasonable way to raise that money. Instead you get this whole "Taxes are EVIL and must be EXPUNGED!" attitude, and as a result, they have to scrounge for non-tax sources of income all over the place... like this.

(This is the same attitude that led to them creating a state lottery to help fund the school system. But even after raking in billions on the lottery in the past decade, the school system is still near broke. So their solution in the past year is... to cut property taxes, which are the primary souce of school funding? But I digress.)

For a fair police force to exist, it must be financed independently of its operation. That is, it must not be able to make money off of its enforcement of the law! And yet, not only does that happen, but it happens inconsistently. As a result, cops are more obsessed with traffic violations, because they involve financial reward for the city (and therefore the police department), and because they're not that contestible--it's the word of the cop vs. the word of the motorist, and the judge will believe the cop. Likewise, they're also obsessed with traffic stops because they can search cars and find narcotics, which gives them the legal power to seize the car and everything in it, sell it, and keep the money, which has only motivated small-town police forces to step up traffic stops even more.

Little towns like speed-trap operations like that because it means other people, out-of-towners, end up paying for their police force, instead of paying for it themselves out of tax revenue drawn from the residents. So, essentially, it's NIMBY in action, which is why the residents never do anything to stop it--they want fairness, but they don't want to have to raise their taxes to grant it.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:April 10th, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
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Remember when we were in Whitney for Des & Phar's wedding, and we drove past a town whose police department had a sign bragging that its new facilities were paid for with money seized from drug busts? On the face of it, that might not sound so bad (drug dealing is worse than speeding!) but it's the same sort of thing: it encourages the cops to unreasonably harass people while looking for crime to bust. So yeah, another example.

I wonder if that's why a Central East Texas Narcotics Task Force car pulled me over for having an expired sticker on my way to MFF 2003. On the next page, I drew the encounter as having a happy ending, but in reality I was kind of seething about "%^&*ing pigs". I dunno why I didn't put that in there.
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From:shelbystripes
Date:April 11th, 2007 02:28 am (UTC)
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I'm pretty sure it's why they pulled you over, yeah. What the hell does a narcotics task force have to do with vehicle registration, other than looking for excuses to search your car?
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:April 10th, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
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That right there is total trappage. That's even more blatantly nothing to do with safety, because of the possibility of rear-ending.

Cops should be stopping crime, not playing "Aha, gotcha, pay up!"
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From:deckardcanine
Date:April 9th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if they'd ticket you for going too slow if you drove 50 in the 70 zone.
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From:shell524
Date:April 9th, 2007 04:58 pm (UTC)
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Minimum speed limit in Texas is 45mph, IIRC. So you'd have to go 40. And yes, I have seen people get pulled over for going too slow before.
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From:shell524
Date:April 9th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC)
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By minimum, I mean, minimum on highways where the speed limit is 55, 60, 70, etc. Of course there are places where the posted limit is lower than 45.
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From:nevermint
Date:April 9th, 2007 04:45 pm (UTC)
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I've never heard of anything like that before, thanks for posting about it.
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From:varro
Date:April 9th, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC)
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South Bay, FL - notorious speed trap because US 27 goes through town. All the South Florida produce truckers know about it and try as hard as they can to avoid it...
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From:wildfox34
Date:April 9th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC)
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It's one main reason why I always try to put an insterstate/freeway on my route when I travel. Quicker, easier, less cops to deal with.
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From:orv
Date:April 9th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
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Some of the worst speed traps are on interstate highways. Small towns that need a revenue source have sometimes annexed land around an interstate highway just to put it within the jurisdiction of their police department.
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From:shelbystripes
Date:April 10th, 2007 11:40 am (UTC)
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The Texas farm town I grew up in did exactly that. Then they busted someone with six figures worth of cash and about forty pounds of narcotics in their vehicle. Since they got to keep the money from drug-related seizures, they suddenly had money to hire additional officers and buy additional squad cars... which were all put to use out on the interstate trying to bust motorists that they could then search for drugs.

A town of 700 people that got buy with two police officers and one car, now has six officers and three cars, last I heard.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:April 10th, 2007 11:26 pm (UTC)
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It's like the police force in that town is some sort of bloodthirsty movie monster that grows bigger and bigger the more victims it eats. Like the Blob.
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From:thecanuckguy
Date:April 11th, 2007 12:26 am (UTC)
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There's a similar "speed trap" near where I live. It's a residential area, but on the outskirts of the city, looking very rural, so one would be tempted to speed. South of the residential area, it is a rural speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph), but the residents petitioned to have the speed in their residential area lowered to the standard residential speed limit of 50 km/h (30 mph). Sign is very sudden, and I've seen cops set up speed traps there, often parking a cruiser in a resident's driveway, probably the resident that complained about the speeders.

(Here is a Google satellite map of the area. The street in question (Plessis) is smack in the middle of the map, running north-south (yes, that's a golf course on the east of the road). As you can see, aside from the golf course and those houses along the west side, it's mostly industrial, with a 70 km/h speed limit on the highway (Dugald) running east-west along the top of the map. South of the houses (just drag the map till you're showing south of what's showing) it's all farmland area (some of it is outside city limits) and 80 km/h. So that one little residential area kinda throws a monkey wrench in it. Residential speeds should probably rightfully start on Plessis *north* of Dugald.
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