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Raynham sets area record for speeding tickets

SUSAN WEINSTEIN , Gazette Staff Writer 08/03/2003

First-time speeders typically get a slap on the wrist in Taunton.

They may not be so lucky in Raynham.

According to a recent Boston Globe study of Registry of Motor Vehicles data, Raynham police ticketed almost nine out of ten motorists they pulled over for speeding in a two-month period in 2001.

The town ranked sixth in the state for the highest rate of speeders cited (107), rather than issued written warnings (15).

Despite the 88 percent rate, Raynham Police Chief Peter King said there is neither a ticketing policy nor a quota in his department, just aggressive efforts by some officers to slow down traffic on two busy state highways that run through town.

"I would never second guess an officer for not writing a ticket -- unless the person was going 100 miles an hour in a 20 zone," King said.

By contrast, police in Taunton issued 40 warnings and only 13 tickets within the same time period -- for a low 25 percent rate.

"Our goal is to decrease accidents, not just deter speeders. Most of the time, I’m going to give you a break," said Taunton Traffic Sgt. Colby Crossman, one of the city’s two full-time traffic officers.

A lean ticket rate also reflects law enforcement attitudes in Bridgewater, which --at seven percent -- placed it among the lowest in the state.

Bridgewater police issued 734 written warnings and 53 tickets in the two months.

"The job of police is to cut down on crime and protect the public, not raise revenue," Bridgewater Police Chief George Gurley said.

Gurley also credited his department’s low ticket rate to the very high number of written warnings and stops which, he said, often leads to arrests for more serious offenses.

"My philosophy is to have the officer out there and visible. By stopping a car, we’re still being effective. But I’m not going to demand that my officers write an "x" amount of tickets," he said.

Like King and Crossman, Gurley finds the systemoverly punitive from a financial point of view.

Although fines for speeding may be as little as $50, even a singleticket results in a surcharge on insurance rates for six years, they said.

The Globe series did not include verbal warnings -- a fact that could account for the few recorded stops in Taunton compared to Raynham and Bridgewater.

Ten times as many verbal as written warnings are issued in the city, Crossman explained.

The goal is not to penalize drivers but to get them to stop speeding.

Driver’s with clean records get "a lecture on safety,"he said.

In an era of community policing, as well, public perception of law enforcement requires "a constant balancing act," Crossman said.

"Officers don’t like to look like the bad guys,"he said.

King said written warnings, as opposed to the more prevalent verbal ones, simply waste an officer’s time.

"If an officer is going to go to the trouble of writing a warning, why not write a ticket?" he asks.

Only 10 percent of the tickets are appealed, he noted.

The Globe articles also focused at the number of warnings versus tickets handed out for the same offense depending on a driver’s race, age and sex, concluding minorities were the most -- and young women the least -- likely to be ticketed.

Twice as many men were ticketed statewide than women.

Oddly, this gender advantage diminishes, statistically at least, once women enter Dighton and Taunton, where they are twice as likely as men to be fined.

Race did not play a major role in the ticketing patterns in area communities.

In fact, both King and Crossman said they objected to a requirement to denote race on the citation.

That determination is not always easy, especially since it no longer appears on driver’s licenses, they said.

"Sometimes, no matter what you write, you offend someone," Crossman said.

Among other area communities, Berkley, at 97 percent, had the highest ticket rate.

Berkley police wrote 38 fines and one warning.

Dighton police handed out 10 warnings and three tickets for a 30 percent rate. Lakeville issued 15 warnings and 44 tickets for a 75 percent rate. Rehoboth issued 18 warnings and 42 tickets for a 70 percent rate and Norton officers wrote 24 tickets and 94 warnings for a 20 percent rate.

Don't get caught speeding in Raynham :eek:
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