Do Cops Write More Tickets When Hard Times Hit?

One economist in Missouri thinks so.

Here’s the findings of Thomas A. Garrett, an assistant vice president at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, as told by St. Louis Post-Dispatch Reporter :

“Traffic tickets go up significantly when local government revenue falls, they found. Their study showed for the first time evidence of how “local governments behave, in part, as though traffic tickets are a revenue tool to help offset periods of fiscal distress.”

As we found in a special report on traffic enforcement in July 2007, however, was that cities and counties rarely collect much of what their cops write in tickets. It usually makes up very small parts of government budgets, too.

There have been instances where patrol chiefs have given incentives or mandated officers write more tickets. Here in Kitsap, we know Kitsap County Patrol Chief Gary Simpson did just that — however his effort was rooted in safety.

It comes down to the basic economics of incentives, according to the story:

In the world of economists, the relationship between traffic tickets and local government budgets is expected — rational, even. It has to do with incentives. Researchers previously have found police make many more drug-related arrests when they are able to retain seized assets.

But there’s a big difference here between drug seizures and traffic tickets. Drug seizures do result in the padding of the police department’s revenue — so they can continue to do such law enforcement work.

But traffic tickets, at least here in Kitsap, don’t seem to help police agencies directly. The funds they do collect from tickets go to the state and into certain local accounts.

2 thoughts on “Do Cops Write More Tickets When Hard Times Hit?

  1. I am no fan of this type of “tax”. However, what is the alternative? Just ignore the infractions? How about doing the easy thing and just obey the traffic laws.

  2. I don’t care when they write more tickets…just write them and work on collecting the fees from the dead beats. If they can’t pay with money, let them pay with their labor and time..
    The ticket writer knows s/he isn’t wasting their time, the ticket recipient will pay one way or another and will think twice about doing the same infraction again.
    The city or county benefits from funds, labor and money, and hopefully less reasons to give tickets in future.
    People learn lessons.
    Either that or get rid of them laws we don’t enforce or follow through with…
    Sharon O’Hara

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