Why are Suburban Cops So Hungry

Hungry as in seemingly pulling everyone over for the slightest or imagined infraction.

Example: Each time (once a week) I drive into Downer’s Grove, IL I see at least two people pulled over within a 3 mile stretch on Ogden. EVERY TIME. This is is absolutely without fail. Meanwhile I drive 15+ Miles through Chicago from the Lakefront to Route 83… Never anything. Weeks have gone by without seeing a CPD Patrol Car pulling someone over. One night when leaving a relatives house, I am driving behind an older Acura… nothing funny about this car at all, driving better than I am, perfect speed, no swerving, I was close enough at a light to see the tags and it was just a lone driver. Within about 2 minutes, a cop swoops in out of the dark and pulls this person over. No lamps out, doing the speed limit, immaculate driving, not on the phone, nothing. seemingly legal in every respect and it got me wondering, so I asked others about it with other suburbs and they have similar anecdotes about it.
It’s only a matter of time before I get pulled over for some imaginary shit, so I’m trying to figure out why they are so damned bored.

Barring observation bias and all of that crap, are Suburban cops just bored/nothing better to do, are they trying to meet quotas or something? What gives?

I personally think CPD have better things to do than suburban police, and that is why I am noticing this. I never get that “damn it a cop is behind me” feeling while I am in Chicago, ever. Only in the Suburbs.

What do you all think?
(Please don’t sidetrack with racial discussions)

It’s called a pretextual traffic stop (pretext stop), a.k.a. a “fishing expedition.” The cop pulls someone over for a small infraction (e.g. failed license plate light), and then hopes for bigger things (e.g. DUI). Rogue cops will go one step further and simply make up a lie about the reason for the stop.

Why? Revenue is the big one. And some cops get a thrill out of it.

I have friends who are county deputies. They hate these practices and hate the cops who do it.

So you get used to rolling through stop signs, driving 20 over the limit, and ignoring your burned out tail light for months at a crack.

Then you travel outside the city and are painfully reminded that they are all illegal and those suburban cops are doing nothing shady, just enforcing the law. Do a little research and you’ll find that traffic patrol does lead to bigger things. And I’d much rather have my municipality funded by violators than have my property taxes go up.

Why don’t you start a thread titled “why doesn’t Chicago PD do their jobs?”

When I lived in the SF Bay Area there were certain roads you tried to avoid because they either had speed traps or cops would just hang out there waiting for someone to drive by that they could then stop. Everybody knew about those roads and sometimes you couldn’t avoid using them or you would forget, and then you would see someone pulled over on the side of the road and then you’d remember. Why the cops focused on that particular road I can’t say. Perhaps the neighbors complained to City Hall about traffic issues and that was their response. These roads happen to be in the suburbs, but there were also ‘hot spots’ in the cities where it happened too.

And here I was thinking this thread would be about donuts…

Hell, I have the opposite question; why does any traffic cop NOT have someone pulled over? Watching the way people drive I honestly don’t understand why cops do not have someone pulled over throughout their entire shift. I see 50 significant violations of the law every time I make my 25 minute commute.

The answer you gave in your OP is absolutely right. There tends to be more crime in cities, so cops in high crime areas typically focus on eradicating violence or things that lead to violence. Suburban areas are already less violent, so cops in those areas have the bandwidth to focus on minor traffic infractions.

My Bay Area experience was not so much a particular street but a whole damn town, specifically, Palo Alto. Speed limits in PA were 5 to 10mph less than on comparable streets elsewhere in South Bay and I used to piss off the locals in (typically) their beemers by strictly obeying it. Now, this was partially to annoy them but mostly it was because I was driving a 15-year old beat up VW – clearly not PA-approved – and I didn’t want to give the PAPD an excuse to pull me over and toss the car.

Mind you, I was driving the limit, not doddering, and in the right-hand lane if there was more than one but they’d be back there, darting back and forth then zooming past only to brake hard to stop at the red light not 200 yards ahead. Screw 'em; they don’t like it, have them complain to their city council to pressure the highway engineers raise the limit to something more reasonable.

I’m both surprised this was a question & it took so long to get this answer. In the suburbs where the “big” crimes (murder, shooting/stabbing, rape, armed robbery, etc.) are typically zero & almost always able to be counted on one hand… with fingers left over…for the year. If the cops aren’t securing these crime scenes/collecting evidence/investigating serious crime what do you want them to do in between shoplifting & barking dog complaints?

Yes, traffic enforcement is a much greater component of the job when the cops are working in low crime areas.

Agreed. My town doesn’t levy a residential property tax (they do on commercial/industrial), so all of the DUI arrests are a source of revenue, plus they get the idiots off of the road. Win-Win.

Policing for revenue means that the motivation for law enforcement becomes raising revenue over serving and protecting. From a cop’s perspective – even a good one – serving and protecting sounds great, but if you’re going to get yelled at or even fired for not issuing enough fines, then you’re going to find ways to issue more fines, whether or not that “serves and protects” the community. Just human nature.

Policing for revenue ought to be banned completely. It’s associated with so much abuse and injustice, race-based and otherwise. All ticket revenue should be completely separated from the community that writes the tickets. Same goes for siezure – any money or goods siezed shouldn’t benefit, in any way whatsoever, the agency that siezes the mondy or goods, to prevent that inherently corrupt motive from ever infecting law enforcement activities.

Agree, and I’ll add this…

I’ve been led to understand that traffic stops are among the most dangerous things most police officers do. They’re approaching an unknown person in their vehicle, and it’s relatively easy for that person to conceal and then use a weapon.

Well if it’s so dangerous, maybe the police should stop doing most traffic stops.

They could still pull people over and give tickets based on the license plate without ever getting out of the car. We already have red light cameras (not that I’m really on board with those), so there’s precedent.

Better yet, maybe the police shouldn’t be involved in traffic enforcement at all. Except for suspected DUI and really reckless driving, perhaps minor speeding / passing / rolling stops could be handled differently. Not sure how… maybe another entity of some kind, and leave the police to actually conduct policing.

I do understand the argument that traffic stops are often the precursor to enforcing other, more serious violations. But as stated in this thread, there are inherent problems with that too. Seems to me in a country with more firearms than people, the police have a good reason to be wary of traffic stops. They may be more trouble than they’re worth at this point.

My father in law was a cop for 35 years. I asked him this same thing once. His answer was the amount of time he was allotted for court appearances. He said about 1 out of ever 20 tickets he wrote would end up with a subpoena to appear in court. Each appearance could result in an hour or 2 sitting in a court room. By not writing up what he called ticky tacky offenses, he spent much less time in court which he hated.

Emphasis added.

That’s a great attitude pkbites. Of the last 100 times you saw fellow police officers break the traffic laws,* how many tickets did you write? How many did they pay? Do you treat members of your force any differently than members of other police forces?

  • And don’t try to cop out by saying that they were engaged in pursuit or blah, blah, blah so they didn’t deserve tickets. They aren’t breaking the traffic laws if they are doing so under their police authority.

Downer’s Grove appears to make a lot of its money from tickets.

Google ‘Downer’s Grove IL traffic ticket’ and a lot of the results are for attorneys who deal with traffic violations.

Frankly, I think we need to outlaw this practice at a national level. Like Ferguson where the cops are literally milking their town for violations and crimes to make their fine-reliant budget.

I might agree when it comes to things like broken taillights, but all of the people that are arrested and fined for DUI are over the legal limit. Getting those people off of the road, even temporarily, is the very definition of “protecting”.

Or should they not patrol for that, because it might be perceived as biased based on race or class?

Nitpicking (and the OP made the same typo):

The name of the town is Downers Grove. There’s no apostrophe in it.

I’m talking about the revenue. I’m all for cracking down on DUIs, but revenue should have nothing to do with it. Cops and departments should have literally zero motivation to write tickets and issue fines beyond serving and protecting the community, and that includes zero financial motivation to raise money for their department or municipality.

Right. Why should the government keep that money? In general, fines should go to mitigate the harms that they are intended to discourage. For example, fines from DUIs could go to pay for injured victims of drunk drivers. This makes more sense than the current system. If you have a fine on an activity that causes no harm, you should get rid of the fine.

Two points about fines and funding.

  1. the money from fines gets split into many different pots. In La. I understand that a ticket from a State Trooper is split into more than 100 fractions. So the cops get a very small amount. Courts get a lot and some of that is one of the few funding sources for indigent defense.

  2. Traffic tickets are dropping nationwide.
    source: my local police force for current information, and

So the places where tickets are a major funding source tend to be the exception.

Now, don’t get me started on property seizures… THAT is a problematical funding source. The cops eyes light up when they talk about that $. It is an unexpected and potentially huge windfall for the department. New coffee mugs (and much more) all around!