Glenwood police steady in writing speeding tickets
If you got a ticket on Grand Avenue last year, you’re in good company.
Glenwood Springs Police issued 430 speeding tickets in 2014, and is on track to surpass the figure in 2015.
That’s on the high end of a small survey of similarly sized Colorado cities.
Delta, a fellow county seat and crossroads, was the sole responding agency with more 2014 citations than Glenwood — 664.
Rifle, which also sits at the junction of Interstate 70 and a state highway, issued only 166 tickets, Alamosa had 261, and Trinidad reported 272 traffic citations, the majority of them for speeding. In an out-of-state, tourist-market comparison, Cody, Wyoming, came in last with just 84 tickets.
Whether the differences are due to speeders or enforcement is hard to ascertain.
Certainly, there’s no shortage of violations in Glenwood Springs.
“If we wanted, we could write speeding tickets all day long,” Glenwood Police Chief Terry Wilson said. “We probably issue two or three warnings per ticket issued.”
Wilson thinks the fact that Glenwood is crossed by Interstate 70 and Highway 82 has a lot to do with it.
“Drivers are coming into town at a very high rate of speed,” he said. “We’re asking them to drop their mindset from 55 to 25 mph right now. They’re typically thinking about where they’re going, not where they are.”
That can be a frustrating dynamic for local residents. While the folks getting the ticket are rarely enthusiastic, Wilson hears a lot of support for traffic enforcement from the community at large.
“There’s a strong sentiment the people don’t want cars flying past their business or past their homes,” he said.
Consequently, the primary enforcement focus is on the town core instead of out on the interstate. Between January and August of this year, the more than a quarter of the city’s speeding tickets were issued in the section of town east of the river between the 12th Street ditch and 23rd Street. I-70 had 80 tickets over the same period; followed by 70 west of the river and south of 23rd; and 58 downtown.
Those ratios are subject to some minor fluctuation.
“If we’re seeing a lot of accidents or clear violations in an area, we put some focus on those,” Wilson explained.
Officers also focus on school zones and areas made particularly dangerous by weather conditions. Right now, the city issues fewer tickets than it has traffic accidents, of which there are roughly 600 annually.
“At the end of the day, traffic enforcement is designed to improve safety,” Wilson said. “Hopefully we’re putting someone in a mindset where they’re safer, not just in our town, but maybe further on up the road.”
For the most part, Glenwood Springs officers aren’t interested in catching folks going a few miles over the speed limit.
“We’re looking for the people whose speed is outside the normal flow of traffic and outside the speed limit to the point that we think it becomes dangerous,” he said.
As with several other cities surveyed, the most common speeding ticket is for 10-19 mph over, which comes with a $100 fine.
While some small municipalities have caught attention for covering a substantial chunk of the budget with traffic fines, Glenwood’s figures are a drop in the bucket. To cover the department’s $3.6 million projected budget for 2016, each of Glenwood’s 25 sworn personnel would have to issue around four $100 tickets every day of the year.
“We don’t have a quota. There’s no minimum; there’s no maximum,” Wilson said. “I’d like to see us able to never have to write another speeding ticket.”
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Robert Shapiro was sentenced to the maximum 25 years in prison for running a $1.3 million real estate Ponzi scheme that claimed more than 7,000 victims.