Editorial: Ticket trend

Last year’s decline in local citations for traffic and other violations suggests the need to examine the city’s enforcement priorities.

March 12, 2013


For of all the sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

What might have been? That’s likely what some families may be wondering as they ponder the significant drop in traffic and other citations issued by Lawrence police during 2012. A city report shows that 28,707 citations were issued during the year, a drop of 7.6 percent from 2011 and the first instance in at least five years in which ticket volume did not reach 30,000.

There’s no formal explanation on the record yet. Officials speculate that staffing levels and priorities in assigning manpower may be part of the underlying cause.

The department issued 6,000 speeding tickets in 2008 and more than 5,000 in 2009 and 2010 before the numbers were more than halved in 2011 and 2012. This would seem to warrant a review of practices.

The same goes for tickets issued for driving under the influence of alcohol, which plummeted to a five-year low of 394 in 2012, down from a peak of 798 in 2010.

Would lives have been saved with more focus on enforcing traffic and DUI laws? Would people who were hospitalized have been spared their injuries? Would the costs of medical care, auto repair and other damages have been lessened if the levels of enforcement had merely stayed the same as in previous years?

This is not a call for overly strict law enforcement or for implementation of harsh crackdowns on driving infractions or other behaviors. It’s not a criticism of police officers or their individual judgment.

It is certainly a cry for introspection on the part of the city and its top police administrators.

We’re a growing city with a sizable population of young, relatively inexperienced drivers — a segment of the population with a propensity to flout laws and ordinances that might get in the way of having a good time (minor in possession tickets also were below the five-year average in 2012.)

Such a city requires a law enforcement focus that protects the public from, well, itself — and makes certain there are fewer family members wondering today what might have been, in terms of lives damaged or lost, if only there had been more staffing, or a different enforcement priority, or…


Paul R Getto 5 years, 3 months ago

Good points, but is Lawrence still growing?

skinny 5 years, 3 months ago

You also have to take into consideration that KUPD also writes City of Lawrence tickets. How do their (KUPD) tickets play into that figure?

Kyle Chandler 5 years, 3 months ago

Id also like to know how the KUPD tickets figure into this, but really.....if ticket writing goes down and accidents/incidents arent skyrocketing up........then WHO CARES? Who in their right mind wants Police Officers to write MORE tickets and manufacture MORE crime? Will we miss out on some sort of special funding if they dont? This is very backwards thinking.

KU_cynic 5 years, 3 months ago

The drop in ticket-writing may very well reflect Chief Khatib's emphasis on having his officers be places and do things that affect crime rates as opposed to largely wasting their time writing relatively inconsequential traffic citations for overwhelmingly non-criminal citizens. An officer's time is too costly to waste.

Phoghorn 5 years, 3 months ago

Ding Ding Ding. Congratulations KU_Cynic. You are the winner of the "intelligent post of the day award". I could not have said this better myself.

chargeit 5 years, 3 months ago

Ticket nazi, how can you also explain success claims by the anti-alcohol agenda that their get tough programs are having an effect? If tougher penalties and youth education are having their lobbied effect according to the special interests that tout them, it stands to reason less DUI and MIP tickets should be written. Unless you are also a MADD subscriber that then continues to lobby for even lower thresholds and tougher enforcement to keep their cause viable?
Speeding tickets may be more the doing of Chief K's emphasis but have you driven Lawrence lately? Streets are full of cars moving light to light, there is not much room for valid speeding violations. With only one artery each direction (Iowa and 23rd) and minimal secondaries, there is no place for increased traffic volumes to go. Again I will assert you are part of the anti-bypass group, looking at the past instead of the future. Ticket writing does not and should not be a measure of the quality of law enforcement. If the old LEO cliche is true, there is not postive revenue in writing tickets. Why use tickets as a measure of LEO success?

optimist 5 years, 3 months ago

This is a non-story. How many citations alone should not be the measure of how well law enforcement is doing? There are a myriad of reasons why the number of citations are lower than in past years. It could simply be a result of a more visible presence by law enforcement discouraging poor behavior before it occurs. The reality here is that the story excluded any information regarding the impact on public safety. I'd like to know if more lives were lost or more injuries occurred. Are more people taking public transportation and therefore fewer people on the road? Are more serious crimes on the rise and therefore taking law enforcements attention away from this aspect of law enforcement? If so has the shift in their attention benefited these investigations? There is much too much information missing in this editorial to opine on the subject.

Phoghorn 5 years, 3 months ago

Exactly. One of the main facets of Law Enforcement is to discourage crime. If a warning for a minor traffic violation will correct an otherwise law-abiding citizen, then the warning has done its job without a citation being necessary.

The same applies to a DA dismissing relatively minor offenses (ie, Class C Misdemeanors), that were committed with no criminal intent by otherwise law-abiding citizens.

True criminals are another story.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

I would welcome greater enforcement of traffic laws.

They should either generate revenue for the city and/or improve driving conditions, both of which are fine with me.

People drive like maniacs in Lawrence, and I can't recall ever seeing anybody get a ticket for turning without using their turn signal (a pet peeve of mine).

KU_cynic 5 years, 3 months ago

This is Lawrence . . . Assume that everyone is veering to the LEFT.

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