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52.5% increase in traffic tickets

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

52.5% increase in traffic tickets

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
July 20, 2010

The May 2010 report of the Woodstock Police Department provided some interesting reading today. Each month a report is prepared and submitted to the City Council as part of its packet. At tonight's City Council meeting I inquired whether the Council members studied the numbers or just read the cover letter.

The transmittal letter for the May 2010 monthly report, dated June 21, carried this sentence, which I read to the Council: "Traffic arrests are higher for May 2010 and slightly lower as compared to year to date 2009 figures."

I addressed the "slightly lower" reference first.
In the first five months of 2009 Woodstock police issued 2,394 total traffic tickets.
In the first five months of 2010 Woodstock police issued 2,299 total traffic tickets.
That's 95 fewer tickets, or 4% less. Perhaps good, fair, firm law enforcement was resulting in fewer traffic violations.

However, look at what happened in May 2010:
In May 2009 Woodstock police issued 451 tickets.
In May 2010 Woodstock police issued 688 tickets.
That's 237 more tickets, or an increase of 52.5%!

What was so special about May 2010? I suggested that the Council members might want to examine a grid or spreadsheet of the types of tickets, in order to know the types of tickets being issued by the police department. One councilman responded, and he said he didn't intend to "micro-manage" the police department.

Actually, I don't consider that "micro-managing." I consider it knowing what's going on. Those additional 237 tickets generated a lot of revenue for the City, for McHenry County and/or the State of Illinois. That revenue came right out of the pockets of area drivers. If the officer checks the Must Appear box on the ticket, then the driver will fork over $125-150 in court costs just to say Hello to the judge.

Ka-ching, ka-ching.

The councilman made a good point. If you don't break the law, you don't get a ticket. Of course, that raises the entire question of officer discretion. If Mayor Sager or Councilman Webster (or any other member of the City Council or management of City Government) gets stopped, do you think they'll get a ticket (ka-ching) or a warning (pass Go (but do not collect $200))? They won't ask for a break, but the cop will give it to them.

So they get to break the law, but they don't get a ticket. The number of warnings issued by officers is not reported each month.

Should I FOIA a year's worth of records and find out what percentage of drivers get tickets and what percentage gets warnings?

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