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I-Team Ranks Top Traffic Ticket Writers

5:28 PM, Nov 11, 2005   |    comments
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By Investigative Reporter Mike Owens I-Team KSDK-The new list is out, and you might be surprised to find out what the NewsChannel Five I-Team has learned. There are scores of municipalities in St. Louis County, each with a police department. Some of those towns raise huge percentages of their budgets with court fines. We arrived at the percentages with simple math. We looked at financial statements issued by the cities themselves, and we divided the amount collected in their courts by the amount of their general revenues. That figure was the percentage of revenue from fines. For example, in Bel-Ridge, they had general revenue of $1,433,780 in 2003; $699 thousand came from fines. Divide the fine figure by the revenue, and you get 48 percent! The police chief in Bel-Ridge in north St. Louis County was surprised to learn how much of his city's budget comes from court fines. Chief Gordon Brock says his officers don't take any special enforcement steps, but admits his officers write 850 tickets a month. The town has about 3,000 residents. Bel-Ridge also runs a municipal court three nights a month. When it's court night in Bel-Ridge, dozens of defendants show up for court, to plead their cases, and they usually pay fines. However, attempts by NewsChannel Five I-Team reporter Mike Owens to witness court were rebuffed. Police guarding the courtroom door refused his request to enter, saying they had a court order, limiting court to defendants only. However, the judge in Bel-Ridge, Thomas Flach, tells his clerk there is no such order. But Bel-Ridge isn't the top city for traffic fines. That distinction goes to tiny Country Club Hills, located on Lucas-Hunt and West Florissant, also in North County. The town has a second distinction: the mayor recently was sentenced to five years probation for stealing from his former employer, a mail services company in Brentwood. Country Club Hills writes speeding tickets. Officers have a new wrinkle on traffic enforcement: parking patrol cars in closed traffic lanes, and writing tickets to drivers who thought they were in a turning lane. The police cars and motorists jam up traffic on Lucas-Hunt, just south of West Florissant, with the officer dodging moving traffic to give out tickets. A state senator from southern Missouri, Delbert Scott, says it's incredible that these municipalities are raising so much money on the backs of unsuspecting motorists. Scott says it's not fair, calling it highway robbery. Scott passed a law several years ago which made it illegal for a town to raise more than 45 percent of its budget from traffic fines. However, that law only pertains to fines levied on state and federal highways, and most of the fines in St. Louis County are coming off local roads, and the law doesn't apply. Here's the list of the top traffic ticket towns, followed by the other communities, but they are listed alphabetically. County Club Hills 61% Bella Villa 59% Bel-Ridge 48% Calverton Park 56% Moline Acres 41% The alphabetic list: Ballwin 4% Bel Nor 6% Bellefontaine Neighbors 10% Bellerive Acres 36% Berkeley 11% Beverly Hills 23% Black Jack 18% Brentwood 4% Bridgeton 2% Charlack 26% Chesterfield 5% Clarkson Valley 25% Clayton 5% Cool Valley 37% Crestwood 4% Creve Coeur 11% Crystal Lake Park N/A Dellwood N/A Des Peres 4% Edmundson 25% Ellisville 2% Eureka 9% Fenton 5% Ferguson 11% Flordell Hills 30% Florissant 9% Frontenac 9% Glendale 6% Glen Echo 0% Grantwood 8% Greendale 26% Green Park N/A Hanley Hills 10% Hazelwood 3% Hillsdale 8% Huntleigh 0% Jennings 7% Kinloch N/A Kirkwood 3% Ladue 4% Lakeshire 1% Mackenzie 0% Manchester 6% Maplewood 8% Marlborough 28% Maryland Heights 2% Normandy 6% Northwoods 8% Norwood Court 6% Oakland 13% Olivette 4% Overland 5% Pacific 5% Pagedale 7% Pasadena Hills 3% Pasadena Park 6% Pine Lawn 13% Richmond Heights N/A Riverview 14% Rock Hill 10% St. Ann 7% St. George 28% St. John 21% Shrewsbury 6% Sunset Hills 4% Sycamore Hills 5% Town and Country 14% Twin Oaks N/A University City 2% Uplands Park 19% Valley Park 5% Velda City 30% Velda Village 19% Vinita Park 13% Vinita Terrace 35% Warson Woods N/A Webster Groves 6% Wellston 9% Westwood 0% Wilbur Park 0% Wildwood 6% Winchester 9% Woodson Terrace 6% Some of these figures are marked N/A, which means the cities did not provide any financial data to the Missouri Auditor, the office which maintains community financial data, and the source of information for this story.

KSDK

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