3/6/2007Virginia: Cops Given Financial Incentive Write More Tickets
Speed traps on the interstate bring a cash bonus to Washington County, Virginia cops.
After the Washington County, Virginia Board of Supervisors voted in 2004 to allow the county sheriff's office to keep 80 percent of revenue generated from traffic tickets, the number of speeding citations written has skyrocketed. The revenue splitting arrangement allows the sheriff to direct revenue windfall toward overtime pay for deputies as well as a "salary supplement" of $2400 for those who perform well.
In 2004, just prior to the new policy, the sheriff's office wrote 1602 traffic tickets. The following year, the sheriff's office wrote 10,018 tickets. Most of the tickets were issued to motorists traveling on Interstate 81 with the average charge being 79 MPH -- just under the threshold for reckless driving under state law, a charge requiring significant court time and effort to prosecute.
The total amount taken from motorists totaled $516,072 in the first year-and-a-half under the revenue sharing deal. This has nearly doubled the county's cut from from around $60,000 to $135,214 while allowing the sheriff to divvy up $166,000 of the bounty among his deputies.
About half of Virginia counties have adopted a similar revenue sharing arrangement encouraging local police to run speed traps on interstate highways.