Speeding tickets in Dayton soar

Amount given increases by 1,400 percent since 2010 when no speed cameras existed

The number of speeding tickets issued in Dayton increased nearly 1,400 percent to 58,325 since the city added speed cameras to some of its busiest streets two years ago.

A Dayton Daily News investigation found at a rate of 152 a day, or more than six per hour, the city’s 14 traffic cameras issued 55,676 speeding tickets in 2012.

Dayton police officers only wrote 2,649 speeding tickets in 2012, down about one-third since 2010 when the city issued 3,947 without speeding cameras.

The amount of tickets issued in Dayton is dramatically more than any other neighboring city. Kettering gave out 3,220 tickets to speeding motorists in 2012.

Police Chief Richard Biehl said the motivation behind the tickets is to promote safety, not collect money.

“The purpose of using red light and speed enforcement cameras is to prevent accidents and save lives,” Biehl said. “The very presence of the cameras has been proven to change people’s dangerous driving habits. Since the red light cameras were installed in 2003, we have seen a noticeable reduction in light-running accidents at intersections where the cameras are in place, and a similar reduction in accidents citywide. We expect to see further reductions.”

The National Motorists Association, a driver’s rights group based in Wisconsin, disagrees.

“The system is predatory. It’s designed to extract fines from people,” Communications director John Bowman said. “Red-light and speed cameras are at the top of our list of concerns.”

As with seven other Dayton cameras that captured more than 6,800 red-light violations, each incident carries an $85 civil penalty, which leaps to $110 if not paid on time.

The Ohio Supreme Court, which does not require speeding tickets and fines to be tabulated separately, reports that total traffic cases across the state that were recorded by law enforcement personnel, not cameras, have declined every year since 2006.

In 18 Dayton area municipal and mayor’s courts in 2012, 112,319 cases involved traffic citations. If even one-third of them were speeding offenses, area drivers paid more than $5.6 million last year, based on the U.S. average of $150 for a speeding ticket.

Offenses recorded by Dayton’s speed cameras accounted for another potential $4.52 million, but the collection rate is not 100 percent. City records show speed camera citations generated $2.38 million between April and December 2012. Speed-only figures were not available before April, because they were combined with red light totals until then.

Dayton receives 65 percent of those fees. The remaining 35 percent goes to the international company that installs and maintains the devices, Redflex Traffic Systems.

“It’s ridiculous. They’re only trying to fund their police department,” said Stacey Schmidt, who admitted to be ticketed twice by speed cameras.

The amount Dayton receives is a larger percentage than cities collect for speeding tickets written by police officers who are paid salaries and benefits.

Only $10 to $25 of a $105 to $125 speeding ticket in the Dayton area goes to the jurisdiction where the citation was issued. The rest goes to the state of Ohio and to the municipal, county or mayor’s court of jurisdiction. Municipal courts in Montgomery County are located in Dayton, Kettering, Vandalia and Oakwood.

“There’s a common misconception that cities get all of the money,” said Susan Anderson, clerk of the Fairborn Municipal Court, which serves a population of more than 91,000 in Fairborn, Beavercreek, Beavercreek Twp. and Bath Twp. “A huge chunk goes to the state. We’re just the gatekeeper.”

Fines add up to a huge economic impact for cities, Bowman said.

“Exactly how much is an educated guess,” Bowman said. “Hundreds of jurisdictions within a given state generate tickets. There is no central clearing house.”

During 2012, the Ohio State Patrol gave more than 6,000 speeding tickets on state highways in the 13 jurisdictions served by courts in Vandalia, Fairborn and Kettering.

“We do a heck of a lot more than stopping cars and writing tickets,” Ohio Highway Patrol lieutenant and spokeswoman Anne Ralston said. “It might come as a surprise, but we issue a lot more warnings than traffic citations.” As of late March, the OSP had recorded about 190,000 non-enforcement traffic stops and about 109,000 citations for various offenses across the state.

Police said the perception that cities are trying to increase revenue by writing more tickets is incorrect.

“We don’t make money on traffic enforcement. We do it to encourage drivers to obey the laws. Areas with aggressive traffic enforcement tend to have lower overall crime rates,” Centerville Police officer John Davis said.

“Safety is the main concern,” Kettering Police spokesperson Ron Roberts said. “We’re sure a visible presence is a deterrent.”

Oakwood Police Maj. Randy Baldridge said traffic stops and license plates checks by patrol officers often identify individuals with outstanding warrants for other offenses.

“That’s how we caught the copper thief,” he said, in reference to a suspect in a series of home break-ins in Oakwood and Kettering during the winter.

“People say we’re a speed trap,” Oakwood law director Robert Jacques said. “We welcome the reputation if it means citizens and visitors will obey the laws.”

Oakwood issued 18 percent more traffic citations in 2012 than the year before. Public Safety Director Alex Bebris, who said the two statistics are related, reported that the city also recorded 29 percent fewer traffic accidents.

An estimated 41 million, or 16 percent of licensed U.S. drivers, got tickets in 2012, paying a total of $6 billion for violations.

Jacques said municipal courts “are subsidized by the cities they serve. There probably isn’t one in the state that’s self-supporting. We would have to raise our ticket fees quite a bit to make our court pay for itself. A court is in the business of dispensing justice, not raising revenue.”

Davis and Roberts said Centerville and Kettering Police look to catch speeders and other offenders in areas where the most accidents have been recorded.

In 2012, Centerville Police recorded 8,864 stops, down 9 percent from 2011. They issued 3,954 traffic citations and made 109 arrests, but issued verbal or written warnings more than half the time.

The NMA’s National Speed Trap Exchange, www.speedtrap.org, ranks Dayton and Centerville as tied for eighth among the top 10 Ohio cities where drivers are most likely to get a ticket. Specific locations in those cities are listed, along with others in Kettering, Beavercreek and Oakwood.

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