State police say Elkins not a speed trap

BY KATE WARD Northwest Arkansas Times

Posted on Saturday, August 26, 2006

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A complaint alleging that Elkins police were using speed traps proved to be untrue, according an investigation conducted by Arkansas State Police this month.

On May 10, Fayetteville resident Steve Allen submitted a complaint to state police claiming that Elkins police officers were violating the “ Arkansas Speed Trap Law” by exceeding state limits on writing speeding tickets along Arkansas 74 and Arkansas 16.

The complaint was forwarded to Washington County Prosecutor Terry Jones, who requested that an independent investigation be conducted by Arkansas State Police.

State Police Sgt. Steve Coppinger determined that the amount of revenue assessed by fines and costs from citations written by the Elkins Police Department on Arkansas 16 and Arkansas 74 in 2005 was $ 34, 141.

Under the Arkansas Speed Trap Law, a city’s revenue from fines and citations cannot exceed 30 percent of the city’s total expenditures. Elkins’ total expenditures for 2004 were $ 1, 734, 370. 54. That means Elkins police would have had to write more than $ 520, 000 in traffic citations to be in violation of the speed trap law.

“ The penalties a city could face for violating the speed trap law are severe, ” Jones said. “ We could order them to stop writing tickets altogether. We could also order that the money they get for traffic citations go to all or part of the Washington County Library Fund. ”

Jones said an agency would also be in violation of the Arkansas Speed Trap Law if more than 50 percent of its traffic citations were issued for exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or less.

“ Elkins police didn’t even come close to violating the law, ” Jones said. “ I think a lot of these complaints stem from the way people get stopped. To determine whether or not a person is dangerous, police have to run their tags and get their background information, which can take a while. So they might not stop you until they get right up to the city limits. They might even stop you outside the city limits because some of them have county jurisdiction. ”

Jones said he hoped the state police department’s investigation would result in a reduced number of speed trap complaints.

“ Every time someone gets a speeding ticket, they think it’s a speed trap when really, they’re just speeding, ” he said. “ We’ve done the same investigation for Elm Springs, Johnson and West Fork — none of them were ever close to a violation of power. This is the last investigation of this kind we’ll be doing for a while. ”