Photo by John F. Russell
Steamboat Springs Police Officer Dan Kelliher talks to a motorist after issuing a warning ticket at Walton Creek Road and U.S. Highway 40.
Steamboat Springs With more time for officers to devote to traffic enforcement in the city and a new model traffic code in the county, the Police Department and Sheriff's Office report increased revenue from traffic tickets in the past year.
The Routt County Sheriff's Office expects to pull in an estimated $45,000 in traffic code violations in 2009, compared with $9,629 in 2008. That change is due to the adoption of the Colorado Model Traffic Code, a state-suggested fine system that increased fines when adopted in March and keeps more of that money in the county.
Sheriff's Office Sgt. Miles De Young said deputies were writing more county tickets instead of state tickets because of the new traffic code. In 2008, there were 158 county tickets, compared with 488 so far in 2009. De Young said it's not that the deputies have written that many more tickets but that more tickets were based on county violations instead of state violations. He said he did not have figures for how many state tickets were written this year. Violations on state highways - Colorado Highway 131 and U.S. Highway 40 - must still go on state tickets.
When persuading the Routt County Board of Commissioners to adopt the model traffic code, Sheriff Gary Wall predicted that it would bring in more cash for the department.
"This is an advantageous thing for us to do," Wall said at the time. "It allows us to collect more revenue and come up with fines we think are appropriate."
The Steamboat Springs Police Department also has seen a jump in revenue from traffic fines this year, bringing in $163,445 through August 2009, compared with $124,580 in the same period last year. Police issued a total of 2,963 tickets in that time in 2009, compared with 2,336 in 2008.
The city adopted the Colorado Model Traffic code years ago, and Capt. Joel Rae said the jump in tickets issued this year is because officers have more time to do "self-initiated" policing, including traffic patrols. More time is available for those patrols because there have been fewer calls for service. As of Oct. 14, there were 7,794 calls for service from the department, compared with 8,326 from January to Oct. 14 in 2008.
"So if they're not occupied responding to calls for service and investigating crime and have more time to conduct self-initiated field activities, that's what we do," Rae said.
"Our No. 1 complaint from the community is speeding vehicles," he said, with complaints coming from downtown business owners, people in school zones, bus drivers and individuals. Rae said the police force was responding with "traffic calming" measures, including having a high presence on the roads, installing radar signs that tell drivers their speed and other signs.