Thursday, September 9, 2010

(Speed) Trapped in Livonia

Don't the Livonia police have better things to do than enforce the law?

Yeah, I wrote that. But only because that's what people seem to be saying.

Certain lead-foots, that is.

Livonia was recently tagged as the city with the worst "speed traps" in the State of Michigan.

It's not exactly clear how this designation was arrived at, but with its announcement last week, there was some scuttlebutt, as you can imagine.

The lead-foots contend that this surely means that motorists are being ticketed with glee by overzealous Livonia police officers, who should be doing things like "going after the REAL criminals."

Livonia's police chief, of course, shrugs it off.

"That (designation) doesn't bother me a bit," said chief Robert Stevenson. "We don't have speed traps. We just enforce the law."

The designation was announced by the National Motorists Association. According to a story in the Free Press, the organization said they identified cities by using data from their National Speed Trap Exchange, where people share information about speed traps.

More from the Free Press story:

Stevenson thinks the term "speed trap" implies the department is doing something tricky and then writing tickets, but that’s not the case, he said.

"If they don't obey the law, then we're going to write them a ticket, and we don't make any apologies about that," Stevenson told the Free Press.


Beware!


Catching speeders, though, does take a little bit of trickery---or at the very least, some guile.

Think about it. People tend not to speed in plain view of a police cruiser. Most speeders are caught because they're observed by an officer who has taken steps to at least somewhat conceal himself. Certainly, that's what happens on freeways or other thoroughfares where motorists are known to kick it up a notch.

So it may not be "tricky," in Stevenson's mind, to place a cruiser in a less-than-auspicious location, but it's disingenuous to say that such placement is merely coincidental.

Still, the bottom line is unchanged: don't speed and you have nothing to worry about.

Easier said than done, I know. Funny how sometimes that speedometer inches its way into the danger zone, especially on sunny days when there's a good song on the radio.

Stevenson also cites some hard numbers to suggest that, if anything, Livonia cops are less zealous than ever.

Overall tickets written by the department are down, he told the Free Press. In 2009, Livonia police wrote about 30,000 tickets. That's down from 2007, where police said they wrote 34,607. Stevenson didn’t have the breakdown of speeding tickets.

Ahhh...how convenient.

Speeding tickets are often taken as an affront by motorists who feel their behavior is somehow less important in terms of law enforcement. As if a police cruiser looking for speeders is somehow "out of play" to any emergency call that comes through.

Do police coffers get lined with money garnered from moving violation tickets? No doubt. Maybe that's where someone working as an advocate for motorists should focus his or her attention. Take away any perceived incentive(s) to write tickets, then see if what police officials like Chief Stevenson say is genuine.

Motorists should be glad. The announcement of Livonia's speed trap infamy should put those behind the wheel on notice.

To paraphrase Bob Seger, "You better watch out for the POH-lice, when you cruise into Livonia."

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