Does Metamora deserve its reputation as a speed trap?

DeWayne Bartels

When Woodford County Sheriff Jim Pierceall recently responded to questions concerning low speeding ticket numbers in Germantown Hills he made a statement that stung Metamora Police Chief Mike Todd.

Pierceall said he does not want his department to have the reputation of zealousness about speeding that Metamora has.

“Metamora has a reputation for traffic enforcement that’s horrible. I don’t want the sheriff’s department to have that type of reputation in Germantown Hills,” Pierceall said.

Metamora has a reputation as a speed trap, both locally and nationally.

Todd is aware of the reputation. Todd said last week he is not sure it is deserved. But, Todd added, he is not sure the reputation is such a bad thing.

Deserved?

“Quite frankly I take the reputation as a compliment. It means we’re upholding the law. We swore an oath to enforce all the laws,” Todd said.

“We don’t turn our backs on domestic violence or burglary. We aren’t going to turn our backs on speeding.”

Todd said the reputation is not troubling to him.

“I’m not a politician. I’m not elected. I don’t have to enforce the law based on what it might do to the number of votes I get,” Todd said. “I have to do the job the taxpayers have me here to do.”

While Todd said the reputation does not bother him he is not sure it is deserved. He opened the computer files the department keeps on traffic tickets to the Woodford Times. A reporter examined the traffic tickets issued by the Metamora Police Department in 2009-10.

The review shows in the two-year period the highest number of tickets issued in a single month were 40 in March of 2010. In December of 2009 the department issued only two speeding tickets.

Todd said those numbers do not indicate to him the department should be considered running a speed trap, despite what people say locally and nationally.

“To me a speed trap is a community where speed limit signs are hidden behind bushes or are hard to read or where the police pull you over 15 feet from a reduction in speed,” Todd said.

“We don’t do that. I’d be embarrassed if I opened my computer files and you saw tickets in there for 3-to-5 mph over. You won’t find that because we don’t do it. With our reputation being what it is we give people breaks.”

Todd said it is well known that Metamora officers sit out in the wide open.

He said because of that locals know very well where his department shoots radar.

“A person abiding by the law has nothing to fear from us,” Todd said.

Todd said 80 to 90 percent of the tickets issued by the department are for 12-to-20 mph over the speed limit.

A review of the tickets issued backed up Todd’s assertion.

Todd said when it comes to exceeding the speed limit by that much a warning is not warranted.

“When people driving that fast ask me for a warning I tell them the warning was back there on the speed limit sign they passed,” Todd said.

“Eighty percent of the people who ask for a warning tell us, ‘I’m not from around here. I’m not familiar with your speed and signs.’”

Todd said he then asks where they are from.

“I then tell them, ‘I’ve been there. The signs there are just like ours’,” Todd said.

Asked why there is so much speeding 12 to 20 mph over the speed limit in the village, Todd did not hesitate to answer.

“It’s people in a hurry on a cell phone. There’s a lot of distractions,” Todd said.

“A lot of the speeding tickets we write involve people on a cell phone. That’s a terrible problem. I see it only getting worse. The state keeps carving out exceptions on where and when it is OK to drive and talk.”

Bad?

While Todd questions whether the reputation is deserved the chief said he  is not so sure it is a bad thing.

“Having a reputation that you need to hit the brakes in this town means the people who walk, bike and drive here are safer. That’s what I’m here to provide,” Todd said.

Of course, Todd’s opinion is not the only one expressed.

He said the number of tickets issued in 2009 was much lower than 2010. He said there is a simple explanation.

“The numbers in 2009 are due to the fact that some of our board members were not happy about our reputation and asked us to back off,” Todd said.

“But, the numbers came back up. My thing is when you see the type of tickets we are writing if it makes us bad, we’re bad.”

The thing is, Todd said, that the village’s reputation is not slowing people down.

“When the fines for speeding went from $75 to $120 I was told, ‘You guys are done. People will stop speeding.’ That hasn’t happened,” Todd said.

“But, I think our reputation has greatly reduced injury accidents.”