25% drop in traffic tickets costs city nearly $2M

Drop in traffic tickets hurts Cleveland's revenue

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Cleveland Police Department writes lots of traffic tickets. In the first nine months of 2015 its officers wrote three-quarters of all the tickets that went to Cleveland Municipal Court.

But our analysis of court data for the prior two years shows evidence that there is a steady slowdown by officers.

Tickets written by 15 separate agencies flow through the court.

In the first three quarters of 2013 there were more than 57,781 tickets written.

Cleveland wrote more than 48,444, four out of five traffic tickets. But a year later the court handled fewer, just under 50,923 tickets, and Cleveland wrote 40,694.

The numbers this year dropped more dramatically. There have been only 38,306 tickets written and Cleveland officers wrote 29,662 of them.

You can see the trend year to year: 48,444 to 40,694 to 29,662, a 25 percent drop from 2014 to 2015 alone.

Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Steve Loomis has said in the past, "If you're going to be criticized every step of the way, it's easier to stay in the car and be criticized for that."  He also cites the fact that community policing encourages officers to warn a violator and when possible send them on their way.

Mayor Frank Jackson and Chief Calvin Williams deny it, but on the street there is no doubt there is discontent in the rank and file.

There are several reasons, including criticism from the U.S. Justice Department as well as citizens. Until this month officers have worked with no contract and no raises for three years and may not be paid what they are owed until after the first of the year.

The drop in tickets is consistent across all five police districts but particularly noticeable in the fourth district, where officers this year wrote only one-third the number of tickets they did in 2013 when they wrote nearly 5,000 tickets. This year officers only wrote about 1,600 tickets.

There is a predictable bottom line to the drop in tickets and that is the lost revenue. The city generates nearly $100 on average from a ticket. It is divided among all kinds of areas: funding indigent representation, updating court computers and crime reporting, the city itself and victims of crime.

A drop of more than 18,000 tickets in two years cost the city nearly $1.9 million. Add to that nearly $6 million from traffic camera revenue it is now denied and the question is where will the city come up with the money without cutting services to all of us?

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