Drop the Chief a Line

In the last two weeks I saw the Altamonte Springs police writing people up at two places I passed by. One was at I-4 and 436 and the other was at 434 & Wekiva Springs Rd. Running red lights and blocking intersections was the major offence.

I was impressed by this law enforcement activity, so I dropped the Chief an email note telling him how impressed I was by his officers actions … and I got a reply.

He expressed frustration at how high the fines were and that he wished they weren’t so high. There is a Laffer Curve when it comes to tickets, but I’ll bet my email made his day.

After all, how many people drop a Chief a note thanking him for what he does?

I’ve sent complaints (as Mighk can attest to), but I also send compliments.

7 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    That’s a good idea, Eric!

    Whenever I see OPD or WPPD officers with radar guns, I give them a thumbs up (from my car or bike… from the bike I also yell “thank you”). That makes them smile. I’m sure they have to deal with a lot of crabby, unhappy people. The community treats traffic enforcement like some kind of revenue-gathering conspiracy. I know there is some history (see Waldo), but in the last 10 years the lawless have ruled the roads.

    An OPD officer once told me that every time they try to crack down on something like neighborhood speeding, the residents go crying to the politicians to make them stop. People don’t want their neighborhoods to be safer if it means they might get a ticket. So we’ll just put in more speed bumps and stop signs.

    Perhaps if the fines were higher and the enforcement more relentless (and immune to political pressure), people would behave better rather than risk the hit.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      “Perhaps if the fines were higher”

      You missed the Laffer Curve I mentioned. High fines make policeman less likely to write “high priced” tickets. An example is that speeding may be reduced to “Failure to obey a traffic device.” The difference in the fine is $100.

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        Yeah, I understand that. But it’s part of the culture of speed to feel sorry for few who get caught breaking the law that everyone breaks. Everyone speeds. Everyone pushes the red light – that one more, OK maybe two more cars sneaking through after the left arrow turns red. So the one that gets caught, it just seems so unfair they get a huge fine for something everyone else is getting away with.

        Another problem is we’ve made it too easy to game the system. People can screw around with court dates and create a huge inconvenience for officers, hoping the officer won’t show up and they’ll get off. I lived with a cop for a while. She hated sitting around the court all day, people would show up, see her there and go pay their ticket. It’s was just a game to see if they could get a freebee. I’m sure the higher priced tickets give them even more incentive to do that.

        IMO, if community leaders had a different attitude and a relentless focus on bringing the beast back under control, the Laffer Curve would go away. Like anything, it takes some pain and determination to get over the hump, then it gets easier.

  2. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    Really? A higher fine makes them less likely to write a ticket? Perhaps, because they feel some compassion ….

    But, then it would follow that with a lower fine they would write more tickets – right? Somehow I doubt that ….

    It’s more a manpower issue. This type of thing is so low on the priority scale, and has all the hassle and paperwork which makes it the last thing police want to do.

    I’d RAISE the fine to something like $1,000. Can’t pay? Impound your car for 60-90 days. If the police and politicians could stand the heat, that would have a very dramatic impact …..

    But since we know that will never happen, I guess we can settle for some automation like the red light cameras …….

  3. MikeOnBike
    MikeOnBike says:

    Some places, like Palo Alto CA, have lowered fines for cycling infractions (like running stop signs) because officers were unlikely to give a “full priced” stop sign ticket to a cyclist.

    So it makes sense to be that too-high fines discourage enforcement, and I suspect there are studies that confirm this. The trick is figuring out how high is too high.

  4. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    I looked up the actual traffic fines for Florida on:


    The fines are amazingly cheap! They top out at a not-so-whopping $260.50 for someone who exceeds the speed limit by over 30 MPH (!) and elects to attend traffic school.

    CAA says that the average cost of owning a car is almost $8,000. The fine is insignificant in comparison.

    Or compare this to Ontario. 30 MPH is roughly 50 km/hr. Going that fast over the speed limit here is deemed to be “street racing.” It results in an instant roadside impoundment of the car and an on-the-spot driver’s license suspension. The police officer seizes the driver’s license and a tow truck hauls the car away to the police impound lot.

    Upon conviction, the guilty criminal is looking at six months in jail, a driver’s license suspension of up to two years and a fine of between $2,000 and $10,000. That’s right, the minimum fine is $2,000 for something that Florida’s fine is set at $260.50

    There is zero evidence that these penalties discourage police from enforcing the law. Quite the contrary. The penalties were increased on September 30, 2007 for going 50 km/hr or more over the limit. Since then far more charges have been laid for this offence because the police know the charges are taken seriously and the police have the backing of the Ministry of Transport to keep the roads safe.

    For more information, see:


  5. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Reading this blog has really been an eye-opener for me. It has really driven home the importance of proper laws and law enforcement. All the time I’ve been in Florida (mostly in Naples) I kept seeing the craziness and thinking “how do they get away with that?” Now I know.

    I have to admit that it really bugs me that a police chief would “express frustration” that rather insignificant fines are too high. Around here, chiefs of police express frustration that violent and dangerous criminals on the roads continue to inflict a senseless carnage of death and injury upon the innocent.

    Here’s an example from a press release by Her Majesty’s Minister of Transportation for Ontario, Donna Cansfield:

    “Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino warns that OPP officers continue to be unrelenting in their pursuit of aggressive and irresponsible drivers. ‘Crashes are often caused by aggressive driving, which includes street racing, unsafe lane changes and, the leading cause of criminal death in Canada, impaired driving,’ Fantino said. ‘The OPP is patrolling the highways 24 hours a day, seven days a week watching for these drivers in our all-out effort to put an end to the senseless carnage.'”



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