12/22/2014Missouri Shuts Down A Dozen Speed Trap Towns
Missouri attorney general files injunction to take away ticket jurisdiction from 13 speed trap towns near St. Louis.
More than half of all traffic tickets issued in Missouri come from St. Louis and its suburbs, and state Attorney General Chris Koster decided to do something about it. On Thursday, Koster took steps to shut down the ability of thirteen towns to use their municipal court to generate cash from speeding tickets.
Bellerive Acres, Beverly Hills, Breckenridge Hills, Crystal Lake, Hillsdale, Mackenzie, Moline Acres, Normandy, Pagedale, Pasadena Park, Velda Village Hills, Vinita Terrace and Upland Park all violated the Macks Creek law that forbids any jurisdiction from generating more than 30 percent of its general fund from traffic tickets. A recent report by the group Better Together St. Louis documented the ongoing problem of speed trap towns and recommended that the threshold be lowered from 30 percent to 10 percent (read report).
Koster found that many of these towns failed to file the required reports with the state auditor, a failure that automatically triggers the statute.
"The Macks Creek law was enacted to protect Missourians from predatory traffic ticketing," Koster said in a statement. "As we continue to identify areas for reform, an important first step is to require St. Louis County municipalities to follow the Macks Creek law to the letter. Based on my review, these thirteen municipalities did not."
Five jurisdictions did not bother filing reports, four of them would not say how much of their operating revenue came from tickets, and four exceeded the 30 percent threshold. Koster accused Vinita Terrace of lying on its report by only counting six months of speeding tickets against an entire year's worth of revenue, so that it appeared only 25 percent of operating revenue came from tickets instead of 50 percent. Moline Acres derived 34 percent of its revenue from tickets and Normandy 38 percent.
Koster asked the St. Louis County Circuit Court for an injunction blocking these jurisdictions from enforcing traffic tickets until they come into full compliance with the law.
"If these municipalities will work with my office to come into compliance, we will work with them," said Koster. "If they fail to work with us, or simply do not have the ability to comply with state law, then they should lose jurisdiction over traffic violations."