Thursday, March 22, 2012

Austin police gave 26% fewer traffic tickets in 2011

It turns out Austin's decline in the number of traffic tickets given out last year was even greater than Grits had supposed according to the city's recent racial profiling report (pdf), which I noticed via this story by Patrick George in the Austin Statesman. Grits has earlier reported that tickets processed in municipal court in Austin had declined from roughly 233,000 to 205,000 from 2010 to 2011 - part of a statewide trend.

The racial profiling report shows Austin officers last year gave far fewer tickets last year. "Austin police officers made 179,882 motor vehicle stops in 2011 compared to 232,848 in 2010," according to the city's racial profiling report. One caveat: That's comparing calendar year to calendar year whereas the Office of Court Administration is measuring the fiscal year (September to August).

Still, that's an amazing 26% fewer tickets from year to year! Said the report: "Overall, the number of stops is lower in 2011, in part, because the Highway Enforcement Command shifted its mission from citywide traffic enforcement to a focus on the major highways such as IH-35, MoPac and 183. As a consequence, the number of traffic citations declined from 224,662 in 2010 to 165,757 in 2011, a 26% reduction. The overall number of motor vehicle stops also decreased by 23%." That has trickle down effects at the jail and throughout the court system because so many arrests originate at traffic stops.

Austin also saw the number of consent searches at traffic stops decline last year, from the highest total since they began tracking in 2010 (19,519) to a more modest 2011 total (11,719)), for a 40% drop.

I went to check the same data source for other cities and was disappointed to see this on the TCLEOSE website: "Note: The link to the 2010 Racial Profiling reports from the TCLEOSE website is no longer available on-line, but may be purchased for $35 (CD disk) through Open Records Request." That's pointless. How much space does it take to archive past years' reports for comparison? I might go ahead and get a couple of years worth for comparison purposes, but that's gratuitous. At least leave the last 3-5 years of reports online to supply some context for the annual data.


Anonymous said...


Another contributing factor is the loss of STEP funds from the Legislature. This has effected all law enforcement from local police to DPS. Good or bad, I don't know? But the goal of STEP is to reduce traffic accidents / deaths due to speed, seatbelt and DWI.

Anonymous said...

I'd guess city hall is spinning over drop in muni court profit center fines...can't have so many law abiding folks can we?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"the goal of STEP is to reduce traffic accidents/deaths due to speed, seatbelt and DWI."

It'll be interesting to see the statewide data, then (likely not yet fully compiled), on whether traffic accidents, DWI/traffic deaths, etc., increased after the grants were cut.

9:30, it does seem like APD just unilaterally changed policies to reduce city revenues, whether because of loss of grant funds or whatever reason. And you're right, some at city hall will probably be a little shocked. IMO though, that's a reason for praise, (muted somewhat if the reason turns out to be loss of grant funds). Revenue generation should not play into police deployment decisions.

Anonymous said...

Agreed Grits, revenue should have no place in the decision process for cop use.
I seem to recall consternation at Houston city hall a couple of years ago when court revenue slipped about 10%.
I won't hold my breath for a review of incident stats pre and post...cheers

Anonymous said...

STEP grant has not affected ALL Texas law enforcement agencies.

A majority of Texas le agencies have never applied for the STEP funds.

While it's true funding has been decreased, some agencies are using the funding for the first time.

Julia said...

We don't really know if this reduced number of traffic tickets is the result of more careful drivers or the result of cops not doing their jobs right:))
It would be great to have more careful drivers but this is not easy...I have a friend that after a traffic ticket Toronto started to drive very careful because he realized he puts others lives in danger...let's hope that's why Austin police gave fewer traffic tickets in 2011:)