Why are Galveston cops writing fewer tickets?

June 11, 2010 10:21:02 AM PDT
Fewer people in Galveston are getting traffic tickets. Police have written many fewer tickets over the past year, but it may not be because people are just following the law. Galveston's police officers have written fewer traffic tickets since last October, meaning a drop of more than $400,000 in revenue. While city leaders point the finger in part at officers on the street, the police association says the city should be looking elsewhere for the blame.

To the people getting speeding tickets on Seawall Boulevard Monday afternoon, it probably doesn't seem like Galveston police have been writing fewer citations. But that's exactly what's been happening since last October, the beginning of the fiscal year. And city leaders aren't happy.

"I call it a blue flu," said Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc. "Blue flu is a term that we use. I think there's some resistance to changes in the department."

The chief of police says those changes included a ban on officers moonlighting at bars and other places where the majority of income comes from alcohol sales, among other things. But Galveston Police Chief Charles Wiley says he has no proof of a blue flu.

"That could very well be true, but we don't have any basis for that," he said. "No one told us that."

Through April of this year, Galveston police officers wrote 22,746 tickets, compared to 29,140 tickets though April of last year. That's a decline of $418,881 in traffic fines.

But the president of the Galveston Municipal Police Association says the blame doesn't lie with the officers on the street.

"It is irresponsible for Galveston City Manager LeBlanc to suggest the decline in traffic citation revenue is due to 'blue flu,'" wrote Jimmy De Los Santos in a statement. "It is no mystery to me why traffic citation revenue is down. We have fewer citizens, less tourists, less police officers."

The chief and the city manager both say it's illegal to set quotas on the number of traffic citations. But Galveston's traffic cops have been told to get back to writing tickets.

"We need to pay more traffic enforcement, is what I've related to them," Chief Wiley said.

City leaders and the police association both point to a new emphasis on community policing in Galveston that they agree is more labor intensive and requires more officers on the street.


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