Does Writing More Tickets Help Public Safety?

Tuesday, February 10th 2009, 6:30 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa Police Department is writing fewer traffic tickets, but they'll soon have a tool that makes it easier to write more.  Does writing more tickets help public safety?  Or it is just a money maker for the city?

The days are numbered for Tulsa Police officers carrying ticket books and writing up violations on carbon paper.  The city plans to buy 50 electronic ticket machines for officers.  The machines cut paperwork and speed up the process from the curb to the courthouse.

"It frees up the officer to go on routine patrol or write additional tickets, it's a force multiplier by all accounts," said Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton.

It comes as the city council considers how to make up a budget shortfall partly due to officers writing fewer tickets.

"We know there is a revenue generating component, but for us writing tickets is about traffic safety," said Tulsa Police Chief Ron Palmer.

Officers are writing fewer tickets each year.  They're down by 21% over the last three years.  Despite that, the number of traffic accidents dropped slightly over the same period. So, fewer tickets did not lead to more accidents.

"As far as I know there hasn't been any change in the way the Tulsa Police Department writes tickets since at least the early 1970's," said Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott.

Councilor Rick Westcott is a former police officer.  He says the new ticketing system is not an effort to get more money for the city by having the police write more tickets.

"Public safety should be the only focus for writing tickets.  Having said that, there is a certain amount of money the administration projects we will receive from citations and that's incorporated into the budget, but that should not be the focus," said Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott.

The new ticket machines could be in use by the middle of next month.  The 50 officers who write the most tickets will get them first.  The city plans to buy more over time.

The first batch will cost $250,000.