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by Peter Moskos

January 9, 2009

Bad economy = more traffic tickets

Traffic tickets go up when local government revenue falls. Is that a surprise? Not really. Here's the story in St. Louis Today. The study, by Thomas Garrett and Gary Wagner, quantifies it: "Controlling for other factors, a 1 percentage point drop in local government revenue leads to a roughly .32 percentage point increase in the number of traffic tickets in the following year, a statistically significant connection."

I don't quite understand when people complain about getting tickets. Whatever happened to "do the crime, do the time" (or pay the fine)? Especially when many of those complaining people are the same people who have no sympathy for poor (usually black) men who get arrested for minor drug crimes.

As long as poor black men are a gazillion times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than rich white men, I really wish that folks would stop bitching about how unfair traffic enforcement is. Yeah, it sure does suck when police decide to crack down on the illegal activity that you happen to think "isn't so bad."

The argument has been made that law enforcement should be random. I don't think it should be. But if it were, every law breaker would have an equal chance of getting caught. To be honest, it's not a bad goal.

Personally, I love traffic tickets. I wish even more were given out. And I wish the fines were higher. The city needs money and I don't want it to come from me. Just follow the law, right? And... oh yeah, I don't have a car.


BG said...

I couldn't disagree more. Legalize drugs and don't use traffic enforcement to make up budget problems. We don't pass traffic laws for budget reasons. If that's the case, lets start dropping the time that you have to cross the street at the cross walk so we can catch more people jaywalking.

PCM said...

I actually agree with you, LibFree. Traffic laws are supposed to be about safety (though *parking* tickets should be a way to make money, especially since we give drivers the free right to exclusively use a lot of public space).

My point is that just because a law is on the books doesn't mean it's right. And if a law is going to be enforced, it should be enforced on rich and poor alike.

I just think it's funny that people are quicker to complain about a ticket than about our country's massive level of imprisonment.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you lost all credibility on the subject when you said you don't have a car.

PCM said...

Well I don't deal drugs but know something about that, too. You really don't have to have a car to have thoughts about cars and traffic tickets.

You don't actually have to experience everything you talk about first-hand. That's what being smart and educated is all about.

And besides, one of the joys of living in New York City is not wanting to have a car.

But the real point is that that was the punch line... the resolution... the climax... the stylistic kicker with which to end a small piece of writing!

But I guess you didn't see that.