So How Did We End Up Here?
And how do we get out?
Traffic Law Enforcement.
What I am about to say will come as a bit of a shock to people under 60: “If you violate a traffic law you will be caught and prosecuted.”
And that was really true.
Prior to 1980, in Florida, if you were caught violating a traffic law, you would be locked up in a city jail and you could stay there for days unless or until you “made bond” usually a hundred dollars. If you never showed up for your “trial” then your “bond” was forfeited and your record was clear. I put these words in quotes because they were a joke. I think you get the joke.
In the unincorporated areas, the Highway Patrol was just about everywhere. Seemed as though if you were speeding 2 MPH over the speed limit, you were bound to get a ticket, so you didn’t.
It was abusive. Traffic law enforcement in Florida was abusive. It was so abusive that the Town of Minneola (pop. 800), next to Clermont in Lake County, in 1973, had 28 part-time policemen and 3 full-time policemen all paid by traffic tickets on commission. Even after 1980, Maitland and Windermere charged no property taxes because traffic tickets covered all the city’s expenses.
My how things have changed. First, there are no more city jails since their conditions were ajudged to be “unconstitutional.” When the building was built in 1970, the Orlando City jail used to be the top two floors of the Police Department building on S. Hughey and the recreation yard was on the roof, ask if you don’t believe me. Second, cops can no longer be paid on commission, so Minneola can’t even afford to pay a single policeman and must contract with the Lake County Sheriff for police protection, as does other small cities in Orange County.
The pendulum finally swung the other way. We overcame the abuse, but did we “win”?
Now, we have virtually no traffic law enforcement. Nobody wants to do it and nobody wants to accept it. The cops don’t want to do it since perfectly fine humored people turn into absolute nasties when confronted with a traffic citation. The people don’t want to be “harrassed.”
Now we want ticket people through the mail, using cameras at intersections. Makes things easy since nobody has to hand the irate citizen a ticket. Still, the citizen complains about harassment. Suppose they were hauled off the to hoosegow, the way it was? Wow.
Yet, people call in when cars are speeding in their neighborhood. In fact, traffic law enforcement is the number one reason people call the police. Not burglary, not robbery, not murder, traffic. Seems like when “other” people violate that law we want it enforced, but we don’t want it enforced upon ourselves.
How do we break out of this without swinging the pendulum too far the other way?