How much police work is traffic tickets?

Where I live there is very little crime. I know it’s different in big cities.

On average how much time do they spend simply giving out tickets?

Given so many localities, I don’t think an average would tell you much. In big cities most or all of it may be done by ‘meter maids’. There’s a city nearby that dedicates one or two officers all day long at a couple good spots on the last two days of the month to fill a quota they say they don’t have. And while they’re not exactly traffic tickets, a lot of cities spend a lot of time issuing parking tickets, a big revenue source.

If you are talking about those assigned to patrol shifts probably about a third.

Also, it’s hard to quantify this time.

Many times, traffic stops lead to investigations & arrests on other, non-traffic crimes. Like when officers observe signs of drugs in the vehicle, or see burglary tools or stolen property in the vehicle, or identify an occupant with an outstanding warrant, etc.

This is pretty common – a policeman friend said that about 1/3rd of his stops moved beyond ‘traffic’ and into other crimes. Remember that it was a traffic stop where they caught Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. Do you count that time as ‘traffic’ or as ‘mass murderer’ time?

McVeigh had no license plate so I tend to think he wanted to get caught. Or maybe he was just really stupid.

I worked as a volunteer cop in a small college town for a couple of years. On the weekends, things picked up with drunk drivers, but during the week a lot of time was spent just cruising around, sitting in the car bullshitting, catching up on paperwork, etc. We also walked foot patrol at night, shaking doors to make sure they were locked. Most volunteers worked the weekends, as that’s when most action happened and when they needed the extra manpower. Otherwise: 99% boredom, 1% HOLY SHIT!

Heh. You’re ignorant, but the timing is impeccable.

Just yesterday I took an in-service training course on domestic terrorism and this was one of the main cases they talked about.

The night before the bombing Terry Nichols left the car several blocks away from the federal building for McVeigh to escape in.** There were plates on the car**. During the night some scofflaws stole the plates off of it.

Credit God, Allah, Karma, or just dumb luck, but had that not happened we may never have known who committed that despicable act of cowardice.

How do you recognize stolen property during a traffic stop? Do cops regularly search the vehicle and radio in every serial number they find (e.g. “Next, it’s a Nokia 44X-5G Phone, blue, serial #445A55GGE4C, then an Apple Ipod serial #34555DVV33G”), hoping to get a “hit” on the stolen property database, or is it mostly recognizing when things seem out of place such as a person with a back seat full of laptops and a trunk full of DVD players?

Now that I’m off my phone I can give a more complete answer. Often traffic enforcement is something that is done between assignments. Sometimes when there are specific complaints form the public, traffic details are assigned. I will use my department with some ballpark estimates as an example. We are a typical suburban north east department in a town of about 60,000. This an overall estimate, indivdual days vary. Sometimes weather, work load or other factors change what goes on.

Detectives: never write tickets.
Community Policing: rarely write tickets
Service Section: never write tickets
Traffic Section: 2/3 of the time traffic enforcement, 1/3 accident/hit and run investigations, traffic surveys, crossing guards etc.
Patrol Section:1/3 responding to calls, 1/3 patroling district, 1/3 traffic enforcement

Ours did on the department I retired from. Depending on what they were doing that day they would sometimes even be in uniform. Keep in mind they didn’t write a lot of traffic tickets, but they wrote some. If they pulled someone over while they were in plain clothes they were required to call for a patrol sector officer. This didn’t happen a lot, but it did happen.

I was on the patrol sector for 75% of my 25 year career there. So during those times my duties were split evenly between traffic enforcement and taking dispatched calls.

Someone got the details wrong. McVeigh said that he removed the license plate himself when he parked it there, three days before the bombing.

When i worked offshore in the Gulf of Mexico I had to pass through several towns that were notorious for writing tickets for even 1 mph (yes 1 mph) over the speed limit. It was so bad I recall an effort (can’t remember if it was federal or state) to hinder this practice by demanding these places do something to the effect of telling them they had better stop writing tickets for motorist that were doing less then 10 mph (or perhaps 5, can’t recall) over the limit. Not sure what happened with that. I knew about the practice so would drive under the limit. Others not in the know got ticketed. As corrupt as government is in Louisiana none of this was a shock to me.

It was all just something these places used to fill their coffers (as it is in many jurisdictions throughout the country).

I’ve also spoken to a few law enforcement officers doing highway patrol that won’t stop anyone until they hit between 10-15 mph over the limit.

Some speed limit laws are really arbitrary and make no sense. But let’s also be fair. If you’re doing 50 in a school zone while children could be present, or in a neighborhood where streets just aren’t made for these rates of speed and more likely to have children playing then perhaps you should be ticketed.

Problems still also exist with quotas being forced on officers whose job performance is based on number of tickets. Not fair to the officers in my opinion.

Most of law enforcement seem to be pretty fair and will often issue a warning. That may also depend on your attitude during the stop. What may have just been a warning could get you a ticket if you’re an ass to them about it.

The only time they put us in uniform is when there is going to be a bad storm and they need all hands on deck. If I happened to see a violation while performing my other duties I certainly could write a ticket. I would have to mail it since they took all my tickets away. But for the purposes of this thread when talking about the usual allocation of time, detectives do not write tickets.

This, mainly.

Cops get pretty good at recognizing things that are likely to be stolen. And the reactions of the vehicle occupants when the cop starts looking around is often another clue.

Things that are not in their boxes, but just tossed into the car. Non-new items that aren’t normally transported (like small kitchen appliances, blenders, toasters, coffee-makers – who hauls them around in their car?). Things that don’t seem to match the age, gender, & race of the occupants of the car (like a CD collection of classic big band music in a carload of teenage males).

Anything like this will rouse suspicions, and that’s when the cop will start asking questions or running serial numbers. (Though serial numbers often don’t matter, because it’s likely that they haven’t been reported – if the cop just stopped the car, the owner doesn’t even know he’s been robbed yet. And probably half the owners didn’t record the serial number anyway.)

Locally, perhaps 2 out of about 20 officers on duty at any given time are assigned primarily as traffic officers. All uniformed officers can, and occasionally do make traffic stops. Plainclothes or undercover officers will radio to dispatch and have a marked unit with uniformed officers make a stop if needed.

The number of roadblocks and traffic stops seem to be inversely proportional to the number of staff working dispatch. Full dispatch center and there will be next to no vehicles stops. Minimal dispatch staffing and they will be calling in all night non-stop with vehicle checks.

Off topic, but Ted Bundy was arrested in Utah on a traffic stop. The cop searched his car after he failed to stop and found burglary tools.

Tell Story!!!

We recently had an unarmed detective run down an armed robber. I was sitting in dispatch listening to a HOLY SHIT! on an open mic on the radio. :eek: