The AAPD is writing fewer parking and traffic tickets.
After averaging $5.7 million a year for a decade, Ann Arbor’s ticket revenue dropped by a third between 2008 and 2010. Parking ticket payments fell from $2.5 million to $1.9 million over the three-year period. Traffic ticket collections dropped even further, from $3.1 million to $1.9 million.
“There are two main reasons why parking ticket numbers fell,” says AAPD Chief Barnett Jones. “First, we had some vacancies in community standards–the folks who do code and parking enforcement–and we ran with two or three instead of four people on [duty]. And at the same time, the city went with new, technologically advanced parking meters that made it easier for people to stay up to date on their parking.”
Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer and acting administrator, says the explanation for the decline in traffic tickets is a little more complicated. “The state has raised the speed limits on the major arteries into town. For example, it used to be thirty-five [mph] on Washtenaw, and it’s forty-five now, and higher speed limits mean less speeding violations. Also we have anecdotal evidence that, like with parking tickets, there’s more compliance from drivers, too.”
Jones agrees compliance is a factor, but says the main reason traffic tickets are down is that his force has shrunk by a third over the past decade: “Less officers mean less tickets.” According to the chief, traffic enforcers also are showing more mercy these days.
“The officers have discretion on when to write or not write tickets,” says Jones. “Our officers are aware of the economic conditions, and these days we’re doing more education than enforcing. I’m not telling my people to write more tickets, there’s no pressure from the city to write more, and I don’t see that changing.
“I don’t see Michigan’s economy getting better in the next two or three years, maybe five or six years,” the chief says. “And we’re not here to build revenues for the city on the backs of people in this economy!”