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Thread: Hate Speed Traps? You will LOVE this!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Home of the Syrupmakers

    Hate Speed Traps? You will LOVE this!

    Hate Speed Traps? One in a Florida Town Might Soon Be Brought to Justice

    WALDO, Fla. (AP) — The north Florida town of Waldo has long had a reputation as a speed trap, and it’s no wonder. A small segment of highway that runs through Waldo requires drivers to speed up and slow down six times: 65 mph becomes 55 mph; 55 becomes 45; then goes back to 55; then back down to 45; to 55 again and eventually, 35 mph.

    AAA named the tiny town between Jacksonville and Gainesville one of only two “traffic traps” nationwide and even placed an attention-getting billboard outside the limits of the town to warn drivers to slow down before entering.

    A speed limit sign is seen on the center median of U.S. 301 within the Hampton City limits on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 in Hampton, Florida. The small 477 person city in Bradford County, known as a notorious speed trap, recently came under heavy scrutiny when results of a state audit revealed numerous problems including a lack of oversight, duplicate paychecks, missing deposits, lost records, lost revenue and other glaring irregularities. (AP/The Tampa Bay Times, Kent Nishimura)

    Now Waldo faces a scandal following allegations that the town victimizes motorists to turn a profit. Two police chiefs have been suspended, the police department has rebelled and the state is investigating possible wrongdoing.

    The situation simmered for years until this month, when Police Chief Mike Szabo was suspended Aug. 12, apparently in response to an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into suspected improprieties in the way officers write tickets.

    The issue then burst into the open two weeks later at a Waldo City Council meeting, when a group of police officers said they had been ordered by Szabo to write at least 12 tickets per 12-hour shift or face repercussions.

    The officers also leveled allegations at the Aug. 26 meeting against Cpl. Kenneth Smith, who had been picked to fill in for Szabo. The officers complained that Smith had, among other things, mishandled evidence. The city council then suspended Smith.

    In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo, drivers enter the town of Waldo, Fla., where motorists can encounter many different speed limits in a roughly two-mile drive. The AAA auto club named the tiny town between Jacksonville and Gainesville one of only two “traffic traps” nationwide. The other town is nearby Lawtey. Now Waldo is facing a scandal over its traffic tickets. (AP/Jason Dearen)

    Not surprisingly, things are tense at the tiny stucco storefront office that serves as Waldo City Hall. On Friday morning, Mayor Louie Davis and City Manager Kim Worley met in a small cluttered office to discuss the controversy, slamming a door shut with a “no comment” when a reporter walked in seeking information.

    Waldo has long had a reputation as a speed trap, but the allegations made by the police officers were particularly stunning since ticket quotas are illegal under Florida law.

    In 2013, Waldo’s seven police officers filed 11,603 traffic citations, according to records obtained by the Gainesville Sun newspaper. That compares with 25,461 citations in 2013 for much larger Gainesville, which has 300 officers and 128,000 residents, including thousands of college students.

    The fines paid by motorists are a big money-maker. According to the city’s 2013 budget, about half of its $1 million in revenue came from “court fines” from tickets issued.

    After council appearance, the officers filed a complaint with the Florida Inspector General’s Office seeking protection under the Florida Whistleblower Act. The officers said they were forced to go public because Worley failed to conduct an investigation after they told her about the quotas, the mismanagement of evidence and other problems, according to the complaint.

    “City manager Worley broke the trust of the concerned members and went straight to Chief Szabo,” the officers said in the complaint. “Chief Szabo then took a retaliatory stance against the members for approximately six months.”

    In a written statement released after the council meeting, Worley said the city takes the officers’ allegations seriously but will not comment further. She has requested that a commander from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office take over leadership of the department.

    The State Attorney’s Office in Alachua County said it is waiting for the FDLE to finish its investigation of ticket quotas and other wrongdoing before deciding whether to file charges against either Szabo or Smith. The FDLE did not return a message seeking comment.

    The Florida Department of Transportation is in charge of setting speed limits, but says it did factor in requests from Waldo officials when setting up speed limits there.

    Because the stretch of highway with six different speed limits runs by schools and a popular flea market that draws many pedestrians, the department said the speed changes are legal. But enforcing speed limits is Waldo’s responsibility, said Tony Falotico, a traffic operations engineer at FDOT.

    Waldo residents said many people do drive through town too quickly, but hope the multiple speed limit changes could be reduced to make it easier to comply with the law.


  2. #2

    Re: Hate Speed Traps? You will LOVE this!

    Mostly Gators get ensnared in this, so lol.

  3. #3

    Re: Hate Speed Traps? You will LOVE this!

    Where's Waldo? :shock: :geek: 8-)

  4. #4

    Re: Hate Speed Traps? You will LOVE this!

    Hate them....

    In 1997 and 1998, the gated of Atlantis city quietly took control of three major roads framing its boundaries and began churning out tickets to nearly everyone but its own residents. In one year’s time, 99.3 percent of all tickets written by city police went to out-of-town drivers, according to a Palm Beach Post computer analysis.

    In the past five years, fine collections jumped from about $5,400 to more than $63,000 – a 1,067 percent increase.

    Police Chief Robert Mangold says city residents don’t get tickets because they don’t violate the law. His department makes it a point to teach them about the department’s traffic enforcement.

    But earlier this year even Mangold reached his limit. Atlantis police were spending so much time on Military Trail, Congress Avenue and Lantana Road writing tickets that the chief ordered his officers to stay inside the walls for a full week in June to remind them that patrolling the city was their duty as well.

    The Atlantis Police Department is just one of several agencies in small, wealthy, nearly crime-free South Florida towns that write the majority of their tickets to nonresidents, The Post analysis found.

    The Post’s analysis of Atlantis tickets from July 1998 to June 1999 also found:

    * All but 60 of the 1,506 tickets were for traffic stops on Congress Avenue, Lantana Road or Military Trail, the three main roads framing the city’s walls. The city expanded its borders to include the roads to “provide frequent traffic enforcement,” according to annexation agreements with the county and state.

    * Of the 60 tickets written for violations inside the city walls, only seven went to Atlantis drivers. Of the 1,446 tickets written outside the walls, only four went to city residents. That means that only 11 tickets out of 1,506 went to people from Atlantis.

    * Atlantis residents were more likely to receive warnings than tickets when pulled over. About 78 percent of the Atlantis residents who where pulled over received warnings, while only 16 percent of the out-of-towners pulled over received warnings.

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