Addicted to Fines
August 30, 2019 11:40 PM   Subscribe

"this idea that courts are there for revenue generation” "These places have one thing in common: They issue a lot of tickets, and they finance their governments by doing it. Like many other rural jurisdictions, towns in south Georgia have suffered decades of a slow economic decline that’s left them without much of a tax base. But they see a large amount of through-traffic from semi-trucks and Florida-bound tourists. And they’ve grown reliant on ticketing them to meet their expenses." posted by frumiousb (65 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
I pretty much knew what was up when the deputy handed me a flyer that was basically "send a check for this much $$$ to this address" in 48 pt font. It was in a small town in Texas on the interstate.

(though tbf I was going 90)
posted by ryanrs at 12:03 AM on August 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


Georgia, for example, levies about a dozen fees, and they’re used to pay for a state police motorcycle unit, a brain and spinal injury trust fund, and a police supplemental retirement fund.

ok, that's pretty brazen
posted by ryanrs at 12:31 AM on August 31, 2019 [18 favorites]


No surprise to see a tiny little town not far from where I live on the map. It's on a highway between my city and a big city. I don't know when the local cops patrol the town itself, because I always see them sitting in the highway's median. Or at roadside, lights flashing, boosting the town's income.
posted by bryon at 12:32 AM on August 31, 2019


Georgia law limits speeding tickets to 35 percent of a local law enforcement agency’s budget (excluding school zone violations and citations exceeding 20 mph over the posted limit). A subsequent investigation by the state found such speeding citations issued over just four months amounted to 150 percent of the total police budget, so Georgia temporarily suspended Cecil’s permit to operate speed radar guns. Officials in Cecil and most other localities did not respond to requests for comment.

God bless America.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 12:37 AM on August 31, 2019 [9 favorites]


Speed trap laws have become increasingly common in the past 10-15 years, at least in parts of the South. Typically, they will occasionally slap the then-most brazen of departments on the wrist fairly soon after passing the law, but then do nothing for several years before picking out another one to make an example of once or twice a decade. Basically, they do just enough to be able to counter complaints about the law "never" being enforced.
posted by wierdo at 12:48 AM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


/ one comment deleted/

I did not mean to criticize the post by calling it ’outragefilter’ - I just wanted to express my opinion that this disgusting practice is an “outrage”
posted by growabrain at 1:31 AM on August 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


Even Lester Maddox fought speed traps, when he was Governor of Georgia. But he couldn’t do much; he put up a.billboard outside Ludowici, warning motorists. In those days, the game was preying on tourists driving State highways to Florida .
posted by thelonius at 1:33 AM on August 31, 2019


Similar bullshit (NY Times) in Suffolk County on Long Island in New York. In grad school, the students warned each other to be extra careful driving in Old Field.
posted by exogenous at 3:50 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Traffic violations are civil infractions in most places, but not everywhere. In Georgia, they are criminal misdemeanors, carrying fines of up to $1,000. This comes as a shock to many tourists passing through. Motorists who can’t pay often end up on probation, incurring monthly supervision fees in addition to their fine.

That’s a real peach. Guess I’m never going to Georgia.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:34 AM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


I got a $400 speeding ticket in Georgia, driving back to Atlanta from Florida. I was speeding, doing about 80 in a 70 mph zone. I had no idea a speeding ticket could be that expensive. But also the ticket said I was going 86mph, which means it counts as "Superspeeder" in Georgia. I know I wasn't going that fast. I think they rely on the fact that the chances I'm gonna set and make a court date in their tiny town in the middle of nowhere in Georgia is extremely low.

Still makes me mad.
posted by dis_integration at 6:42 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


I’ve often heard calls to consolidate these tiny, rent-seeking police forces into a larger, more state level apparatus. Would that help with the situation? Along side other reforms (making it so you can’t DIRECTLY BENEFIT from issuing tickets for one)?
posted by The Whelk at 6:46 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


I've only ever lived in areas where this was the norm - the surprising thing for me is how few towns in the West do this. Speed-trap towns have existed in southern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas since the 60s. There are now three generations of folks who just think this is the way things are done.
posted by suckerpunch at 6:54 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Ludowici, Ga
posted by thelonius at 6:54 AM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Sometimes when someone blows past me on a city street doing 60, I wish that PA allowed local police to use speed radar but reading this makes me reconsider. Maybe we should just have speed bumps.
posted by octothorpe at 6:56 AM on August 31, 2019


Best option: DO NOT SPEED. Problem solved.
posted by davidmsc at 7:20 AM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


There are plenty of other factors that go into the problem of public mistrust of the police, but when a government is relying on fine revenue, that is a very big problem. When people see cops and their first thought is fear of an expensive ticket, even if they’re following all laws, they don’t trust the police.
posted by azpenguin at 7:31 AM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


Ahh yes, the real solution to towns filling their coffers not by explicit taxation that they'd have to justify to the public but instead finding reasons to levy fines and fees in ways that allow them to arbitrarily choose who they charge (which just so happens to often mean a lot of white people getting warnings and a lot of not-white people getting hefty fines) is that the people getting fined/feed into poverty just need to try harder. Maybe if they lived a little more in desperate fear of a tiny mistake ruining their lives out of proportion to what they did, they wouldn't be in such a bad spot. Totally their fault!
posted by tocts at 7:32 AM on August 31, 2019 [24 favorites]


Best option: DO NOT SPEED. Problem solved.

Bester option: Require speed limits to be set according to optimal safe traffic flow patterns based on the design of the highway, and require clear, frequent signs of speed changes and 5-mph increments of speed change from previous speed zones to be no less than 1/4 mile, rather than all these things set by local whims. Problem greatly diminished!

There's a town near where I live here in LA that has big multi-lane streets with protected lefts at every light and a lane-wide concrete median. The speed limit is set at 30. That's just straight-up bullshit.
posted by tclark at 7:35 AM on August 31, 2019 [18 favorites]


Does not speeding help? I'm wondering exactly what stops these places from issuing speeding tickets to people who aren't speeding. I suspect it's nothing. Also, as the article notes, it's more than just speeding tickets - when these towns are restricted in the amount of revenue they get from tickets, they switch to code enforcement violations.

The real problem is that these aren't economically viable towns in their own right. Very small tax base, no real commerce, no other way to raise legitimate revenue. It's effectively the same problem we talk about in the politics threads when we talk about what to do with e.g. coal towns.

You might save yourself a ticket by not speeding (which you totally should! Don't speed!) but that in no way solves the problem.
posted by mrgoat at 7:38 AM on August 31, 2019 [20 favorites]


also previously: One County, 90 police forces about (surprise!) St Louis County.
posted by scruss at 7:38 AM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


.....more extensive public transit options would also help this problem go away
posted by The Whelk at 7:40 AM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Ah, that section of 301 between Baldwin at the junction with I-10 and Gainesville, FL going through Lawtey, Starke, and Waldo, where the speed limit varies between 65, 55, 45, 35, 30 and even 25(!) mph. That crap was on 60 Minutes back in the 80s, and I think Waldo had its police force disbanded. Here's a story from 2014.
posted by smcameron at 7:41 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Best option: DO NOT SPEED. Problem solved

You've clearly never driven through a speed trap town. Even law and order Republicans are getting fed up with them for a reason, and it's not sympathy for people who speed, it's that they, in many cases, make it literally impossible to comply unless you routinely drive well under the speed limit (which itself will get you stopped, and quite possibly have any cash you are carrying taken and maybe even your debit card drained) or are very familiar with the area.

Many speed trap cities, when faced with exceeding their fine budget, simply turn to civil forfeiture and take people's shit on zero evidence whatsoever. They do it even in states that attempt to limit the use of civil forfeiture by laundering it through the DEA, who is perfectly happy to take the money and later rebate it to the police department, minus their vig, of course.
posted by wierdo at 8:10 AM on August 31, 2019 [20 favorites]


Best option: DO NOT SPEED

You realize that these are often set to be deliberately predatory and are often obfuscated, right? One of the more egregious ones I've seen was in rural NH (near Durham), where the officer was waiting at the bottom of a hill and around a blind corner, in a school school zone. The speed change, from 50 mph to 25 (approximately), was marked only at the bottom of the hill after the turn and was immediate, i.e. at the start of the zone, with no length of road in which to slowdown to comply with the law. If they had actually wanted to keep kids safe, would it have not made sense to post a single sign on the curve at the top of the hill? As it was, being on the road for the first time in my life, of course I was speeding when I entered the school zone. And of course, an officer was waiting behind the school zone speed marker to catch me.

I've since seen similar set-ups in a number of places in the States, sure in the south, but even in northern California. It's really a blight in the US, anywhere a municipality has lost its tax-base. I've driven in many other countries around the world (work and personal travel takes me to out of the way places a lot of the time) and the US is the only place deliberate speed traps are commonplace. In most other places changes in speed are well-marked and a reasonably attentive driver can easily comply with speed limits.
posted by bonehead at 8:11 AM on August 31, 2019 [16 favorites]


I get really angry at the dangerous, entitled assholes who seem to think it's fine to go well above the speed limit. It's hard for me to feel sympathy for them when they get a speeding ticket.

Near where I grew up, there are some highways that cut straight through towns and the speed limit goes down from 70mph to 30mph. Most people slow down, but others zip right through - doing ridiculous speeds past schools and houses. But the thing is, this isn't a speed trap, it's just a change in speed limit. The change in speed limit is obvious and you're given plenty of time to slow down because they actually want you to slow down.

To me, "speed trap" has always meant a place that's designed to trick you into speeding. Not a just a place where cops frequently ticket people. Confusing the two irritates me, because people going 90mph who get ticketed will complain about "speed traps." Often it's just normal enforcement of the speed limit (which is sometimes heavier in areas where people speed a lot). And then, people who don't feel much sympathy for speeders think it's just a bunch of them complaining about getting tickets.

It's about corruption and grift. Plus, it's unsafe. If the speed limit change is justified you want clear signage and enough time for people to comply, because you actually want them to slow down. If the speed limit change isn't justified, then you're messing with the flow of traffic for no good reason.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:34 AM on August 31, 2019 [9 favorites]


I lived near a place with a setup exactly like bonehead described. There was a restaurant just before the spot who served a dish called 'Speed Trap Chili' because the cops would get chili to go and eat it while waiting to ticket drivers.

As you may have guessed, it also tipped off patrons as to what awaited them as they left.
posted by ananci at 8:36 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Bester option: Require speed limits to be set according to optimal traffic flow patterns based on the design of the highway, and require clear, frequent signs of speed changes and 5-mph increments of speed change from previous speed zones to be no less than 1/4 mile. Problem greatly diminished!


Cops could set up at probably 50% of the construction zones (with active activity) on the highways in my province and just write tickets all day long. As the guy some times standing within a metre of people doing 2-3x the construction limit I wish they would.

The shitty dangerous driving I see on a regular basis while on the highway really makes me wish they'd increase enforcement. Insecure loads, failure to yield, excessive speeding, tailgating, illegal and unsafe (for other people) vehicle modifications; self driving cars and the calming effect they have on traffic will be great.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


> self driving cars and the calming effect they have on traffic will be great.

you know what would also have a calming effect on traffic?

unicorns. no, no, not the silicon valley startups valued at over a billion dollars. i'm talking unicorns, actual unicorn unicorns.

they could exude a powerful mystical aura across the roadways. they could through their beauty and majesty inspire us all to be better people. they could use their magical horns to cure drivers afflicted with road rage and other ailments.

but you might be saying: unicorns don't exist, that despite the extensive marketing hype around them they might be altogether impossible to create using 21st century technology, and that although they are an attractive and exciting fiction they are in fact not real and will not be real any time in the foreseeable future. to which i say: and your point is?

wait no i have a better idea for calming traffic: practical effective fusion reactors. hear me out...
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:54 AM on August 31, 2019 [9 favorites]


> Cops could set up at probably 50% of the construction zones (with active activity) on the highways in my province and just write tickets all day long. As the guy some times standing within a metre of people doing 2-3x the construction limit I wish they would.

returning to the actual topic: although canadian police are no angels — note police violence against first nations people — united states police are essentially roving gangs of armed criminals.

and, as discussed in the post, the purpose of ticketing isn't protecting public safety or road workers or whatever. it's revenue generation. road construction sites are only sporadically present, and generally whether or not a highway gets repair work is a decision made by state governments, not municipal governments. as such they are not a viable source of ongoing revenue.

your framing presents police forces as organizations meant to protect public safety and police as people who in some way make the world a better place. this framing is both wrong and also inappropriate.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:04 AM on August 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


Oh, for Christ's sake: Best option: DO NOT SPEED. Problem solved.

Goddamit, Dave! Can't you understand that the police in these communities are farming people for money? This is what infuriated me about Ferguson, the way that the police simply issue tickets for "living while black." It's their revenue structure! Is that what you want for yourself and for your loved ones, Dave? To be a sharecropper just for existing?!
posted by SPrintF at 9:34 AM on August 31, 2019 [24 favorites]


> Oh, for Christ's sake: Best option: DO NOT SPEED. Problem solved.

but what if police lie
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:42 AM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


[Hey folks, friendly nudge that all those things can be true -- speeding can be dangerous, other people are bad drivers, cars are a problem -- while also there can be police practices and public policies that aren't meant to address those legitimate concerns, as the link discusses... and that latter point is what this thread is about. So let's not get stuck on those other points.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:47 AM on August 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


Then they'll be able to lie about a multitude of infractions. Heck it's even easier with regulations that are judgment calls.

The revenue generation is only possible because drivers are used to breaking the law. All. The. Time. Just constantly. Yes you'd still have problems with corrupt cops just flat out making shit up or using horrible laws like civil forfeiture to extort the public. And actual traps like bonehead outlines (speed limit changes should be better regulated if they can change from 70 to 25 without warning which I realise is the sort of law practically impossible to push through in the states). But if people weren't used to doing 20-30 over the limit without consequence besides the carnage there would be a lot less chance for enforcement. Getting a ticket for speeding isn't like getting a ticket for loitering or "derelict vehicle in driveway" which are practically universally used as a harassment tool without redeeming outcomes.

The only reason these places even standout is that active enforcement of driving regulation is rare. This despite excessive speed being a factor in the majority of accidents. Which would be sort of fine if the accidents were all of the single vehicle, single occupant, off a cliff variety. But they tend to be of the multiple car, slam into a minivan or plow down a couple people in a cross walk variety.

And unlike arguable judgment calls like following to close or driving without due care and attention we have all sorts of yes/no unarguable tools (VASCAR, radar, calibrated speedometers, cameras etc.) to record and enforce limits.

I really like the way that some jurisdictions have average speed cameras at entrances and exits of freeways or portable pairs around construction zones and just ticket cars that traverse the distance in less than the legal time. Coupled with Finland's income based fines would have a strong enforcement effect while simultaneously reducing "uneven" enforcement (the automated system isn't going to have a selection bias (though the human often tasked to review tickets might) and add on corruption.

Earmark 100% of the charged funds to public transport and you reduce the incentive for plain revenue generation.
posted by Mitheral at 9:48 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


While I am sure that racially-differential enforcement is quite common in these little towns, to do it for speeding would require that they ever let anyone off with a warning, ever, which would be anathema. And time spent actually trying to enforce laws or prevent crimes is time they could be spending writing tickets.

Waldo, Florida used to drop pretty quickly 55-45-35, with a cop there watching you, then a turn through a school zone, then on the way out of town it finally went back up 35-45-55, and if you accelerated too fast on your way out of town, thinking you'd gotten through OK, they'd get you there too.

Their PD finally got disbanded, and eventually both of their schools closed so the kids just go to school in Gainesville. Couldn't happen to a bunch of nicer folks.

If the state would directly take all the traffic fine revenue, instead of the piddly little towns, that would clean a lot of it up.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:00 AM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


This problem, as with many many many other problems, is exacerbated because there isn't one system in the USA, there are 50 or 51, but actually there are more than that, because so much is local, so it's 51 x the number of cities or counties or other jurisdictions, so there are literally thousands of different systems to try to reform.

So you have a certain level of systemic shittiness already, that's enough of a problem to clean up thousands of times instead of just once of 50 times, and then on top of that you have a couple of mostly-unaccountable special cases that make it worse for everyone.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:03 AM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


We have one well known one in Wisconsin - Rosendale. ON 26 between 41N & 15
posted by symbioid at 10:49 AM on August 31, 2019


If the state would directly take all the traffic fine revenue, instead of the piddly little towns, that would clean a lot of it up.


That's among the proposals given here.

And yes, it more complicated than just speeding. It's a matter of the corrupting influence of incentives that are set up when when municipalities can use fines to in lieu of tax revenue. They essentially become a shakedown dressed as law and order.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:04 PM on August 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


Back when Texas was governed by Democrats, I remember reading a story about a notorious speed trap town being forced to give all the proceeds from traffic fines to the state general fund. This would be a good model today: exceed a certain threshold, all money goes to the state.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:06 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


something that is glossed over in this article (and this thread) is that there's a ton of suburbs and exurbs (places that typically identify as "small towns") that were built in such a way that they could only pay for their municipal infrastructure when the housing stock was attractive because it was brand new, and when the infrastructure itself didn't require much maintenance because it was itself brand new. when the money runs out these exurbs turn to shaking down people for revenues from fines.

so that's one problem that's remarkably difficult to fix. these towns are unsustainable and never should have been built in the first place.

the other problem is that all cops are bastards. yes, all cops, every last one, your uncle or cousin or whatever on the force is not an exception. the exceptions end up like serpico — shot in the back by the other cops. and regardless of whether or not exurbs turn to shaking down people for revenue, the cops themselves love to shake people down to pay themselves and to buy toys. the solution to this problem is to abolish the police — they're an occupying force that does no good for anyone but themselves — but as a rule occupying forces don't just like leave without a fight.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:32 PM on August 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


In my experience, the California Highway Patrol has been very professional about traffic enforcement. At least here in the Bay Area, they watch traffic cruise by at 10 over the limit and generally go after people speeding above and beyond that. They spend a lot of their time driving with the traffic, rather than sitting parked in hiding spots. And they appear to have a monopoly on freeway enforcement; I've never seen a local cop patrolling a freeway.

Not that the CHP doesn't have other problems, but I did notice that the article's map didn't have any dots in California.
posted by ryanrs at 2:06 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


I drive through two or three towns or suburbs on a regular basis where I go to teach the teenage children of yuppies. These are places that have a lot of money because the people who live there don't work there -- they commute to two nearby cities and work in office parks and stuff. And these places are still one big speed trap. The police forces don't actually need to work this way, they prefer it. I imagine there is a great deal of pressure to finance departments this way so the suburbs don't have to fund themselves via taxation. Anyway, these places are basically garbage and I've turned into one of those people that blinks their high beams to warn others of where the speed traps are.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:15 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


the solution to this problem is to abolish the police — they're an occupying force that does no good for anyone but themselves

Do you have a proposal for a replacement enforcement mechanism or are the nations highways going to be a Car Wars like free for all where driving to Disney means loading up the rocket launchers and napalm?
posted by Mitheral at 5:01 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


As someone who, 1) doesn't live in the US, 2) doesn't drive - do in-car GPS systems/Google Maps provide advanced warning of speed traps? I'm curious as to whether that influences which income groups (i.e. people with/without access to fancy tech) are more likely to get fined?
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 5:57 PM on August 31, 2019


What do you do if you're curious about what a modern city without police even looks like?
posted by Selena777 at 6:06 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Having lived in Montreal, I am painfully familiar with this. The ticket bylaws are often so infuriatingly targeted towards people who they think they can coerce and threaten. We have a dozen extraneous or (as I’ve seen) intentionally misapplied cycling laws that are regularly used to extract 60$+whatever the cop decides to add for “talking back”, which is often as little as asking for clarification.
posted by constantinescharity at 6:11 PM on August 31, 2019


I must say that coming from Australia - where in my daily commute I drive through 10 speed control cameras that automatically issue you a $289 fine for doing so much as 6kmph over the posted speed limit - the idea of using police to issue fines seems like such a third world country thing when they could be doing almost anything else to benefit the community. It's pretty damn efficient at raising revenue, a single camera right at my doorstep (Kings / Latrobe in Melbourne) raised $8.1 mil in revenue last year, and I'm sure it was miles cheaper to set up than paying live police to do the job.

Exceeding the speed limit by 25kmph (15mph) will automatically get you a $454 fine and an automatic 3 months license suspension. They will send you an image of your vehicle + the radar speed reading if you ask.

Some of the cameras are point to point - they snap a picture of you at one point and another picture maybe 10km later - and issue you a fine if your average speed was higher than the limit.

These cameras are explicitly labeled as safety focused - there are large signs before the cameras themselves telling you the intersection ahead is speed controlled and what the speed is, it's impossible to miss.

When I drove in the US for the first time I was aghast at the total disregard for the rule of law on the road. Why even bother have speed limits when hardly anyone follows them?
posted by xdvesper at 6:22 PM on August 31, 2019 [9 favorites]


do in-car GPS systems/Google Maps provide advanced warning of speed traps?

Google maps did start doing this for me recently. I get a vocal warning and a map icon and asked to confirm if the cop is still there.
posted by gaybobbie at 6:57 PM on August 31, 2019


> Do you have a proposal for a replacement enforcement mechanism or are the nations highways going to be a Car Wars like free for all where driving to Disney means loading up the rocket launchers and napalm?

that is literally better than the police.

i mean if we need a replacement for the police it needs to be community-appointed and the community the police occupy need to have hiring and firing privileges over the police, but that is not going to happen because the police are an occupying force.

that said: your assertion that the presence of police leads to less chaos needs support. i argue that the police do not prevent chaos, but instead preserve it.

change my mind.

> Earmark 100% of the charged funds to public transport and you reduce the incentive for plain revenue generation.

you are talking as if the use of ticketing as a revenue generating mechanism is an oversight — a little oopsy that a do-gooder government can fix. it's not an oversight. it is an ongoing act of violence committed by municipalities and police against anyone they can get their hands on.

moreover, because exurban municipalities are dependent upon this violence, there is no particularly easy solution that doesn't involve destroying those municipalities. they need that money to support themselves. without that money they will go bankrupt.

note: i am in favor of destroying them, i am in favor of driving them to bankruptcy and then dissolving them, and i wish that they had never existed. but i at least i acknowledge that — now that they exist — destroying them isn't easy.

i am going to stress that your approach to this question seems very 1) liberal, 2) canadian. i think you are underestimating the level of pervasive systemic corruption south of the border, and how difficult it will be to dismantle this corruption. you're also underestimating the level of pervasive systemic corruption in your own governments, even though your governments are on the whole significantly better than ours.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:01 PM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


I got pulled over in Russell County, Kansas, doing 70MPH at 1100 on a beautiful Sunday morning.

The speed limit was 70.

I had, in bored engineer fashion, just tested the vehicle's speedometer by setting the cruise on 70, and noting the elapsed time from mile marker 1 to mile marker 71. Fifty-nine minutes and 56 seconds.

Cop asked me, "You know why I pulled you over?"
"No sir. As far as I know I was doing exactly 70 MPH and it was dead flat so I wasn't coasting."
"Yeah, doing exactly the speed limit, we consider that suspicious behavior."
posted by notsnot at 7:08 PM on August 31, 2019 [21 favorites]


> are the nations highways going to be a Car Wars like free for all where driving to Disney means loading up the rocket launchers and napalm?

like look i am sorry for going in on you so hard, but that is literally what this article is about: driving to disney(world), right now, is a fraught process. and it is a fraught process because every cop in georgia will try to rob you on the way, and because they have a legal right to do so.

the condition you postulate as obtaining in the absence of police exists right now, and is created by the police.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:09 PM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


There aren't burning/burnt out hulks of tourist vehicles lining the shoulders of Georgia highways. Whatever the level of violence being committed by police the system is no where near the complete chaos of fellow travellers blowing one up with rocket launchers on a daily basis.

that said: your assertion that the presence of police leads to less chaos needs support. i argue that the police do not prevent chaos, but instead preserve it.

change my mind.


I can't think of any place larger than a village (and even in those places there is some sort of defacto community policing system if only ostracization or exile) that lacks law enforcement and isn't a hell hole. Actually I can't think of any sizable community that doesn't have some sort of law enforcement mechanism in place be it religious, secular, organized crime, military or some sort of community group even if it is a hellhole. One of the fundamental functions of a government is to provide policing. Even organizations like Hamas provide policing in their territories. The only places you don't find some sort of law enforcement are some active war zones and places where the population density is so low that there can't be any victims. Though even there the militaries in a conflict will be happy to shoot you if you are perceived to have committed a crime against them.

Anarchies are like a vacuum; disturb them even a little bit and law enforcement/matter rush in.

I'll flip your question on it's ear - Can you point to any sizable system (say greater than a thousand people though the limit could probably be much lower) that doesn't have a law enforcement mechanism of some kind and is at least a some what pleasant place to live?

Cop asked me, "You know why I pulled you over?"

Trevor Noah on the differences between South African and American traffic stops [Youtube].
posted by Mitheral at 9:09 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


driving to Disney means loading up the rocket launchers and napalm?

If I was allowed to do that, I wouldn't need to go to Disney
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:09 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


> I'll flip your question on it's ear - Can you point to any sizable system (say greater than a thousand people though the limit could probably be much lower) that doesn't have a law enforcement mechanism of some kind and is at least a some what pleasant place to live?

exarchia.

> Anarchies are like a vacuum; disturb them even a little bit and law enforcement/matter rush in.

not if the anarchists shoot them first.

> There aren't burning/burnt out hulks of tourist vehicles lining the shoulders of Georgia highways. Whatever the level of violence being committed by police the system is no where near the complete chaos of fellow travellers blowing one up with rocket launchers on a daily basis.

you clearly have never met u.s. cops.

p.s. if you want the burned-out hulks of vehicles you gotta go to michigan, not georgia.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:20 PM on August 31, 2019


Police are conducting raids in Exarchia right now. The police were banned from the campus in that area, if this is about Greece.
posted by Selena777 at 9:34 PM on August 31, 2019


I can tell you exactly what roads that have essentially no traffic enforcement look like, because where I live the highway patrol have explicitly stated they will not patrol nor perform traffic stops on the Interstate since there is insufficient clear space to safely do so. Despite our penchant for hyperbole here in Miami, driver behavior isn't really any different here than in any other large city, nor even than farther north in the metropolitan area, where people drive no differently despite the active enforcement of traffic laws there.

Don't get me wrong, I wish it worked, because then maybe I wouldn't find myself standing in a marked crosswalk in the middle of the street while 40+ cars fail to yield pretty much every time I cross the street. But it doesn't make any difference at all. What actually makes a difference is designing roads that feel unsafe to drive on. (Which can be done without making them less safe in actual operation, but costs money and hurts the feefees of much of the police force for some reason, by the way)
posted by wierdo at 12:48 AM on September 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


I really like the way that some jurisdictions have average speed cameras …

Hey, that picture of the A77 is just down the road from my mum's house!
posted by scruss at 10:41 AM on September 1, 2019


"Yeah, doing exactly the speed limit, we consider that suspicious behavior."

I get nervous when cops are around and cope by obnoxiously slowing down to about 5 mph under the speed limit. At any speed, in any place, it takes about a minute for the cop to get annoyed enough to pass me and speed off. It never occurred to me that that could have backfired...

A friend of mine once got three speeding tickets in the course of a one week business trip through inland FL. He's not much for speeding, but at least one of the tickets came from an AAA-infamous speed trap town. Since he was traveling to fire a bunch of people -- he basically spent a month being the George Clooney character from Up in the Air -- he said it felt like divine judgment. (I would say he was too exhausted and miserable to notice all the 40/50/40 speed changes.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 6:02 PM on September 1, 2019


It's interesting to me to contrast this discussion with what come up when automated radar-based ticketing systems are used in place of human cops hiding in cover near dubiously posted speed limit changes.

The radar systems are completely fair. Radar doesn't know a Mercedes from a beater, a local from a tourist, a black driver from white. Tickets are completely automated, and in Ontario, used to be just mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle (which lead to my brothers having uncomfortable conversations with Mom and Dad about not just why they were speeding, but also why the car was in Oshawa that weekend evening, which in turn lead to the discovery of secret girlfriends out of town. Drama!).

Public outcry did kill the radar tickets in Ontario, but my understanding is that the systems paid for themselves in months, and better were much cheaper in the long run than cops in cruisers. Makes me wonder what the real purpose of these rural counties have in keeping people in cars at the roadside, even if the primary goal is revenue generation. Make work? Jobs for relations? What?
posted by bonehead at 7:11 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Radar does not actually work all that well because of the wavelengths they are allowed to use and practical limits of antenna design and the physics that force the beam to be divergent. Assuming correct calibration, which should be a given with modern electronics, the speed displayed is always the actual speed of something, but determining that the reading is attributable to one particular car rather than the one behind it or in the next lane over can hardly be done reliably by a human, much less a machine with very limited l, if any, knowledge of its surroundings. That's one reason why most departments aren't buying new radar units and are using lidar units instead.

Unfortunately, the very thing that makes a lidar unit more reliable also makes it difficult to automate. Since the laser beam is small and its divergence is small enough to be irrelevant at the distances involved, it must be aimed with enough precision that it isn't easily automated. The aim point required varies from vehicle to vehicle since the beam has to not only hit the target vehicle, but also must be aimed at a surface that will reflect the light back at the lidar device. License plates are often used since they have a retroreflective coating, but the mounting location varies between models and many states only allow/issue a single rear plate.

Also, the driver is the one breaking the law, not the registered owner. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of punishing a person in the absence of any evidence the driver and registered owner are in fact the same person.

Lastly, I would argue that they only appear to pay for themselves. The net income from the scheme would be far lower, if not negative, were costs not being externalized. It's cheap to send out tickets if you don't care about ensuring the ticket is issued to the correct vehicle/owner and don't bother to verify that there was actually a violation and not a false positive.
posted by wierdo at 11:16 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


There's also the issue that the traffic cameras are usually owned by private companies who charge fees to the municipalities for using them.
posted by octothorpe at 11:28 AM on September 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


Also to support an automatic ticket mailing system the counties in question might have to buy a computer.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:47 AM on September 2, 2019


The radar systems are completely fair.

That would only be true if the town couldn't just dismiss all the tickets automatically given to local people or white people or other favored groups, and more broadly would only be true in a complete fantasy-world where it was physically impossible for the cops or town to just straight-up lie about what the system said or didn't say.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:13 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


wierdo, regarding accuracy concerns, the way it works here is that each lane gets their own camera system hung from a gantry, and for better accuracy they use Piezo strips embedded in the road to measure a vehicle's speed as it passes the camera. The infrared camera can capture an image of the driver even at night.

The owner of the car is deemed responsible for the vehicle, even if they have let another person use it. For example, in the case of company owned vehicles, it is a legal requirement to keep time logs of which employee is using it. In the case the company did not keep logs and failed to nominate a driver, the company essentially pays something like a 10x fee - $2890, instead of the driver paying $289.

I've driven through the 10 speed control cameras every day for work for the last 10 years at exactly the speed limit and I've been caught exactly once doing 76kmph in a 70kmph zone, and I knew for sure at the moment I drove through the camera that I was speeding and sure enough I got the ticket in the mail a few days later, so for this n=1 the system seems to work close to perfect.
posted by xdvesper at 4:51 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


the solution to this problem is to abolish the police — they're an occupying force that does no good for anyone but themselves — but as a rule occupying forces don't just like leave without a fight.
What is going to control the molestors, sociopaths, psychopaths and just plain opportunists--your icy disapproving glare? Anarchy is one of the few systems that makes even less sense than libertarianism.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:46 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


Accepting your argument for the purposes of discussion, I ask: "Who is controlling the molesters, sociopaths, psychopaths and just plain opportunists now?'

A bunch of 'roid raging fascists, for the most part. (Not all police, but unquestionably a disproportionately large fraction of management and those assigned to special units fit that description and use their position to essentially dictate both policy and culture in their departments)

Personally, I don't think policing should go away entirely, but I do think it needs a reorientation so drastic that continuing to call them police the would be misleading. Even if we can't make that happen, we absolutely have to drastically cut back the number of police. The sheer size of their collective group is enough to make law enforcement very nearly impossible to manage, even ineffectually, much less in a way that doesn't allow a culture of abuse to take hold without notice. It's the nature of large organizations.

Personally, I've lived in several places where police presence may as well have been nonexistent given that you'd be very lucky to get a response inside half an hour even if they set out running code the instant you called. And I'm not talking about being in the backwoods where the nearest neighbor is well out of sight and earshot and a would be burglar would be more likely to get lost and starve to death than find my house, but communities of hundreds to small thousands. Maybe I'm just lucky, but the lack of police didn't seem to cause chaos, or even more crime than nearby medium-small cities.

P.S. It would be nice if we could stop using the term sociopath as shorthand for "bad/immoral person who does bad things to other people."
posted by wierdo at 6:47 PM on September 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


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