Audit says city needs more tickets, to make more money

Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo has not received credit for pulling off a major balancing act in fiscal 2018. He began the year expecting a $4 million deficit but ended the year with a $170,000 surplus.

By any account, that’s a major accomplishment.

The annual audit of the city always gives insight into the city’s management. One comment by auditors that is listed as a management finding is that the city is not making as much money from writing tickets as it has in the past.

We thought it was odd that the legislative auditor’s office would complain that fewer people are being arrested for DWI and other traffic offenses causing the city’s revenues to drop every year for the last ten years.

The auditors want the city to write more tickets. Find some more DWI violators. Make that money.

The auditor’s said, “The number of ticket books issued to each patrol officer during that audit period averaged seven ticket books or seventy tickets per officer. Using fifty work weeks in a year, it appears an officer is issuing one and one-half tickets per week. This calculated average number of tickets being issued per officer seems low.”

It is a huge drop, to big to be ignored the auditors say. They report that the number of tickets “annually has declined steadily during the ten years from 27,594 for 2009 to 3,191 for 2018.”

The auditors say the city needs to be more vigilant and get police to write more tickets to take in more money for the city. The report said, “the City may be missing out on revenues that some municipalities depend on greatly for their source of funding for various City activities.”

The auditor’s recommended that, “the City may want to consider studying this matter to determine if additional revenue could appropriately be increased.”

Why has the ticket rate dropped? The city said, ticket writing was handled in the past by a separate traffic unit. Officers in the unit wrote tickets. There were five ticket writers and a supervisor. The police chief made changes and consolidated the ticket writing unit in with regular patrol officers. Immediately the number of tickets written dropped, according to the audit report.

Police officers complained that regular patrol duties plus massive ticket writing expectations were unbearable and began to transfer out of the ticket writing unit, reducing it to only two ticket writers.

Some officers in the unit had a “personal passion” for writing tickets and regularly wrote several hundred citations a week between them. However, because of retirement and added patrol duties, the ticket writing business flopped.

The report was almost humorous because it appears that fewer people are breaking the law by driving drunk. The city told auditors that with the arrival of Uber and LYFT transport services in the city, there are fewer DWI tickets.

The idea of writing tickets to make money for the city, sours the pallet. The fact that a special group of officers were charged with the responsibility of writing tickets for the purpose of making money, also seems distasteful.

The fact that fewer people are driving drunk should be counted as a plus, not an audit finding.

We don’t believe the city should balance its budget at the expense of the poor. Neither do we believe that speed traps and ticket traps should be a source of budgeted revenue.

The planned reduction in ticket writing doesn’t appear to be a planned action of the city, but the fact that the city has balanced its budget and is reasonably fiscally sound without passionate ticket writing should be a sign that writing more tickets is not necessary.

It looks like the ticket writing mechanism in the city is broken.

Hopefully fixing it as the auditor’s suggested, won’t be seriously considered.