Hoosier speed trap

December 22, 2009

Small-town speed traps are common. They're income producers, and their primary targets usually are folks passing through, not locals going about their business.

Lanesville, Ind., pop. 640, may be an exception, however. There, some people who just last year clamored for stepped-up enforcement against speeders now are complaining that the town's police department (part-time Town Marshal Larry Borden and three reserve officers) is being overly aggressive in pulling locals over and citing them for minor traffic offenses, such as failing to use a turn signal or driving just above the 35 mph speed limit on Main Street.
The Courier-Journal's Grace Schneider reported the rise in police activity in Lanesville. Whereas police issued just nine citations in 2008, Lanesville officers have filed 76 citations this year with the Harrison County Superior Court clerk, and county dispatchers have recorded more than 600 service calls so far this year, compared to 246 in 2008.
The department's defenders insist that these statistics are justified because there's more crime in Lanesville than residents may realize. But most traffic violations aren't crimes at all, although some certainly do pose dangers to the public.
There's a critical difference in policing between effective protection of the public and hassling ordinary citizens. Speed traps often fall in the latter category. Lanesville, like other communities, must strike the right balance.