Dallas Cops Are Writing Half as Many Tickets as They Did Five Years Ago

LegoTrafficCop.jpg
Helmut Edlmeyer
Driving in Dallas sucks for a lot of reasons (traffic, terrible drivers, humongous potholes, et al), but overzealous traffic cops aren't one of them.

This isn't just the anecdotal experience of a guy who, having been ticketed three times in five months as a teenager in Richardson, discovered similar infractions are routinely ignored by Dallas' finest. It's statistics.

As The Dallas Morning News' Scott Goldstein reports today, the number of traffic citations in Dallas dropped by 15 percent for the past year. The year before, the decline was 18 percent. The year before that, another 15 percent.

It's not a new phenomenon. A chart presented to Dallas City Council's Ad Hoc Judicial Nominations Committee shows a steady decline in tickets, from 495,007 in fiscal year 2007 to 211,843 in FY 2013.

See also: Dallas Traffic Lights Are Terrible, So City Wants to Spend $250 Million on an Overhaul

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The "no duh" explanation is that police are writing fewer tickets. The "focus of everyday Patrol Division Officers seems to have shifted away from writing citations," Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata noted in his presentation, noting that the average beat cop pulls out his ticket book almost 600 fewer times per year than he used to. In the traffic division, the number of "high writers" -- those writing more than 1,000 per year -- is half of what it once was.

The slightly more complex reason is that DPD is making a conscious shift away from traditional traffic enforcement techniques.

"The purpose of traffic enforcement is to improve traffic safety, not to raise revenue," Chief David Brown told Goldstein in an email last year. "We don't believe the citizens of Dallas want its police department writing citations to raise revenues."

And finally, the most complex reason lies with Dallas' beleaguered municipal courts system. A traffic citation can be costly to prosecute. Reforms implemented over the past year and a half have made things more efficient by disposing of more cases through guilty pleas and slashing the number of dismissals, but the city is still in the process of "rightsizing" its municipal court system.

The end result, though, is the same. You're half as likely to get a ticket in Dallas as you were five years ago.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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43 comments
scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

you're far less than half as likely, the Constables have stopped too.  They were more eager than the DPD to cite

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

After moving to The Northtexaplex from L.A. 25 years ago, I knew something on the roads wasn't quite right. Folks drove as though there were no cops, and as it turned out, there weren't.

Dallas has some of the best defensive drivers in the US because it has some of the worst offensive drivers in the US, and the Stemmons Roadeo is probably one of the most entertaining shows in the country because there are no rules.

NewsDog
NewsDog

The thing that DPD and The City don't want to admit is that there are actualy fewer cops on the streets attempting to protect us.   

J_A_
J_A_

Hooray Dallas!

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

They still pull people over, but it seems to me they use the license plate scanner to get the ones with warrants or whatever. I've seen it on I-35 quite a few times. Didn't look like they were flying, not any faster than me anyway, but the lights and sirens came on and the cars were pulled over.

Stopping someone going 70 in a 60 on the freeway is stupid anyway. They should stop the ones doing 40 on the freeway though. They do present a safety issue.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

But they're still shooting people and getting away with it.

observist
observist topcommenter

Not exactly on-topic, but ticketing hasn't slowed down on 114 between NW Highway and the Airport - AKA the North Irving Tollway.

jmckee3
jmckee3

It's not so true in Uptown, I've seen and heard of them running major ticketing operations.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

I see a lot more Dallas County Sheriff's vehicles writing tickets on the freeways.  Did they take over the expressways?

Plus, it costs a lot of money to pull a patrol officer off his beat to sit around half a day in the municipal courthouse.  They may not be getting bang for buck on traffic citations.

cbricciardi
cbricciardi

How have arrests trended in the last 5 years?

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

The best reason to live in Dallas and never go to the suburbs is exactly this. Very few inane traffic tickets. That whole real crime thing means you don't get pulled over for stupid bullshit. I'm rolling on an 18 month expired inspection and don't even worry about it. It's pretty awesome.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

Not enough officers per shift to answer calls for service in Oak Cliff ..How can they be expected to make traffic stops. Well they do manage Parking Tickets.

WylieH
WylieH

The disappearance of DPD officers running traffic enforcement has been remarkable.  Didn't DPD recently admit that they had stopped routinely patrolling limited access highways entirely sometime in the last few years?  I don't think their removal from the highway system was because all of a sudden drivers started driving better.

dallas_dude
dallas_dude

What about red light camera all over the place?  Are those counted as police citations?  Anyone who has seen idiots weaving in and out of traffic on 75 wonders where the police are when you need them.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I think this is true across most of the area. I've noticed that there just seems to be fewer people turned over. However, I do not think the main cause is the reasons listed above. I think it is because the police are to busy answering calls to do traffic enforcement. I know that there are places places that could desperately use traffic enforcement (and I'm not talking speed limits), like the service roads around the High 5.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

This is a good thing.  As Robert Peel, the father of modern policing wrote, 

“The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”

Crime is down in Dallas.  That we are issuing fewer citations shouldn't be an indicator that the police are napping on the job.  Crime is still down.

(This also doesn't excuse the crime still out there, though, particularly from the cops shooting people and then lying about it.)

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@ruddski 

Smartphones aren't helping the situation. They certainly aren't "smart" enough to keep their owners focused on driving rather than texting about what's for dinner, tonight.

Roadeo is about the best description of Dallas driving as I've ever heard.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@jmckee3 And what are there a lot of in Uptown? Kids in their 20s and bars. Those are defacto drunk driving checkpoints. Deep Ellum was the same way back in the 90s.

WylieH
WylieH

@holmantx They cut a deal awhile back to monitor certain expressways in South Dallas.  You can frequently see them on eastbound I-30 around the Ft. Worth Ave, bridge, for example.  I believe the agreement was recently amended/broadened to include portions of Stemmons Freeway north of downtown, and maybe some other areas.

The Sheriffs Department also handles traffic accident clearance in these territories, and a relatively recent DMN story reported that the Sheriffs Department can clear an accident from the highways in a fraction of the time of DPD.  Of course, this causes one to wonder--- WHY?  And.... if the Sheriffs Department can clear accidents significantly faster than DPD, why aren't they doing this throughout Dallas (I'm looking at you, Central Expressway), where cars can back up for miles while accidents take forever to clear?

ryan762
ryan762

@P1Gunter I was going to say that I got pulled over for an expired inspection sticker in Dallas, but I remember now that I was in Grand Prairie.

That was like fifteen years ago anyway, so it's not exactly relevant.

LeroyJenkem
LeroyJenkem

@P1Gunter Tell me about it. I noted that apparently someone with power and influence had a good long talk with the Richardson PD, because several intersections right on the border (particularly at Spring Valley and Central) now actually give a chance for more than four people to get through before the light goes red. Beltline and Central was even worse about anyone caught in the middle of the intersection when the light went yellow. Oh, and God help the bicyclist in certain parts of Richardson (out near Renner) who doesn't have have front and rear lights on in full daylight when the Basil Fawlty lookalike patrolling the area in the morning comes through.

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

@P1Gunter Don't pass any Dallas County Constables with that inspection sticker.  You'll get a ticket faster than you can say "Mixed Vegetables".

Eric_The_Midget
Eric_The_Midget

@oakclifftownie I was shocked to see a DPD cop the other day drive by a car in front of an expired meter, back up, put on the flashers and write a parking ticket.

gmit
gmit

@WylieH Slow driving telephone using assholes in the left lane pretty much control the speed on major highways, the real dangers of distracted driving,  following too close to one of those distracted cell phone assholes, or driving unmaintained automobiles is way too hard to "prove" in a court of law  

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

I always figured Stemmons was cop-free because of the danger.

gmit
gmit

@dallas_dude 

Red Light cameras send a bill not a ticket, it goes on the credit record not the driving record, its not a police function rather a function of a government contractor given the right to bill its own the citizenry........a civil matter ! Total Horsehsit   

WylieH
WylieH

@dallas_dude They stopped actively patrolling 75 a few years ago.   You can still get stopped if you happen to do something really stupid right in front of an officer that happens to be using the expressway if he isn't busy responding somewhere else and happens to be inclined to write a ticket outside his assigned beat, but that's a pretty unlikely set of circumstances.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@Tim.Covington It's true state-wide, as reported by "Grits for Breakfast" blog starting a few years ago. However, reasons vary by city; for instance, Austin's decline in routine ticketing was attributed to a focus on the major highways, the opposite of what's happening in Dallas.

BigNasty
BigNasty

We be snoozing on da job, ty for lettin us catch some zzz's

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

The addition of pocket computers is like adding a few gates to the Hahnenkamm, just adds to the challenge.

jmckee3
jmckee3

You would think that, but sadly it is not the case, I've asked and begged for it but the police are pretty much no existent on Friday and Saturday nights, this is during weekdays.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@LeroyJenkem @P1Gunter To me it is seriously a quality of life issue. The only time you see a bunch of cops writing speed trap tickets in Dallas is in school zones. Mockingbird by Stonewall Jackson is a big place for it, but I get that since the school has a ton of deaf students. So long as you don't drive absurdly dangerously DPD generally doesn't mess with you.

WylieH
WylieH

@Sharon_Moreanus ...and UP, and Irving, and Grand Prairie, and Arlington, and Plano, and Richardson... lol...

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@Sharon_Moreanus When I was working at Pogo's (Lovers/Inwood) I would take I-30 to Inwood for precisely this reason.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@MaxNoDifference @P1Gunter They're the ones that gave me my only citation in the last 5 years. And it was so, so weak....no front license plate. When he actually wrote the ticket I was said, "seriously?" But I was a white guy driving down Samuell, so I assume they just wanted to run me for warrants.

WylieH
WylieH

@MaxNoDifference ALL of them?  I knew they started with parts of South Dallas, and recently I saw one on Stemmons.   Has this program expanded City wide?  I haven't seen anyone running traffic on Central Expressway for years (save one time-- maybe someone from UP or HP with influence had called... lol...).

gmit
gmit

@WylieH @dallas_dude Traffic cameras send you a bill not a ticket 

Goes on the credit report not the driving record

2DollaHolla
2DollaHolla

instead of asking a begging where's your wad of cash?

WylieH
WylieH

@P1Gunter @MaxNoDifference Very true.... although DPD generally doesn't mess with you for regular traffic infractions (just saw a guy make an illegal left turn literally right in front of a DPD cruiser a few minutes ago), you CAN get stopped for "rolling outside your assigned neighborhood."  The few times I have been stopped have always been when both me and my vehicle age/condition were very different from the norms in the area through which I was traveling.

Lorlee
Lorlee

@WylieH The last ticket I got was from the Sheriffs and it was by Love Field in a speed trap.  I was surprised it was the Sheriffs in the heart of the City.  

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