Pulled over in Beaverton: City prolific with traffic citations

Pulled over in Beaverton: City prolific with traffic citations »Play Video
Beaverton police officer Mike Rowe talks with a driver who he stopped for passing in a no-passing zone.

BEAVERTON, Ore. – If you are passing through Beaverton, you need to be on your best driving behavior.
 
The KATU “On Your Side Investigators” uncovered some pretty eye opening numbers when it comes to traffic stops and tickets. Officers in Beaverton are the ticket writing kings and queens; it's not even a close race when we compared traffic enforcement by cities of similar size.
 
We wanted to know why.
 
In 2010, Beaverton cops wrote nearly 15,000 tickets. That's a lot more than Gresham (9,947) and twice as many as Hillsboro (7,565), even though the cities are roughly the same size.
 
The trend continued in 2011: Beaverton police wrote 20,000 tickets, nearly twice as many as Gresham (10,761) and three times as many as Hillsboro (6,537). Even compared to traffic tickets given out in significantly bigger cities like Salem (19,546) and Eugene (13,412), Beaverton came out higher for traffic tickets that year.

City Beaverton Hillsboro
Gresham
Eugene
Salem
Traffic Citations (2010) 14,958 7,565 9,974 16,164 14,075
Traffic Citations (2011) 20,561 6,537 10,761 13,412 19,546


And those numbers don't include Beaverton's red light and photo radar cameras. Add those in and Beaverton issued  33,253 tickets last year; four times more than Gresham (8,318) and six times more than Hillsboro (5,612).

City Beaverton Hillsboro Gresham
Total Traffic Citations (2012) 33,253 5,612 8,318


The vigorous ticket writing can be partially traced to a Beaverton city council meeting in 2010. That’s when police chief Jeff Spalding convinced the council to add a new kind of ticket to the red light camera repertoire.

The city started fining people caught taking right hand turns without stopping. But, said Spalding,” We're not trying to make money on any of these programs."

Instead, that new income allowed the city to hire two more traffic cops, and a lieutenant to oversee the traffic unit, as well as more court employees to handle the new case load.

So how much money does Beaverton bring in from citations and where does it all go? The city collected about $6 million in the 2012 fiscal year. While the total includes parking tickets, criminal citations, code violations and other court fines, drivers certainly forked over most of the cash. It was more than enough to cover the $4 million traffic program budget.

We're told the remainder - about $1.6 million - was used to fund other police programs. Indeed, the traffic program easily exceeded its ‘budgeted’ amount of tickets issued (see table below).

Type
Number Issued Budgeted
Infractions
19,484 17,222
Photo/Red Light
13,769 N/A
Parking
1,512 1,463
Criminal
969 949
Misdemeanor
1,256 974
Code Enforcement
36 N/A
Total Traffic Citations
33,253 17,222
Total Overall Citations
37,026 20,608


In voting for the program, city officials said they had public opinion on their side. Mayor Denny Doyle said at the time, "It's a long overdue expansion. People if you meet them in grocery stores, here, there - they say 'can you get people to slow down.’” And Beaverton makes it a priority with nine traffic cops on the street writing tickets. By comparison, Hillsboro just has four and Gresham has six.

State records show Beaverton’s crash statistics consistently outpace the other cities of its size locally, even after the traffic program’s expansion.

City
Beaverton
Hillsboro
Gresham
Total Crashes (2009)
1,448 1,049 1,072
Total Crashes (2010) 1,686 1,112 1,1616
Total Crashes (2011) 1,913 1,316 1,286


But Beaverton says its traffic enforcement is a primary reason it was just named the safest large city in Oregon.

“When you come across a traffic stop you never know what you're going to come across,” said Lt. Adam Spang. “You stop someone for a cell phone violation and the next thing you know you're arresting them on a warrant."