Ticket quotas aren't supposed to exist. But a local Dallas news station is finding ticket-writing in several Texas towns is such a racket that one local judge says he quit on principle.
Last month, WFAA-TV pulled ticket data for about 800 cities in Texas and found four towns in particular along a 30-mile stretch of the I-45 corridor between Dallas and Houston that have some downright ridiculous ticket-writing numbers. They called it the "dirty thirty."
Here's how the station describes one of those towns, Palmer:
Palmer wrote 1,080 speeding and warning tickets last month alone, according to city administrator Doug Young. The city has just 2,023 residents. In total, as of 2014, they had more than 29,000 pending municipal court cases, which is the equivalent of nearly 15 for every one resident of the town, News 8's research shows.
But after that story aired, a local judge who had volunteered for 15 years contacted the station to say the problem is even more widespread and that it got so bad in his area, he resigned.
"When I first became a judge, we had one reserve officer," David Viscarde, the former judge in the town of Calvert, told WFAA. "That's all he did on Friday and Saturday every other weekend. He'd write 100 citations."
So why? Well, many local governments, and especially police departments, are funded by tickets and municipal court fees, the station says.
The outlet calls it the new area the "Texas triangle," named for the three-city area southwest of Waco, Texas. Here's how bad it is in those towns, Hearne, Lott and Calvert:
Hearne has just 4,400 people, but it has more than 12,000 municipal court cases pending, records show.
Lott is one of the top 20 in the state for pending municipal court cases, records show. The town's mayor, Anita Tindle, would not provide budget numbers. But state records show Lott has more than 3,400 municipal court cases pending. That's nearly five cases for each of its 743 residents.
Calvert, also in the top 20 for pending cases, also declined to provide financial numbers. But state records show it has 5,159 municipal court cases pending — which is nearly five for each of its approximately 1,100 residents.
"The pressure to collect revenues in Calvert — and probably other small towns in Texas — is excessive," Vicarde said. "And what happens is, you got judges like me who say they've got better things to do with my time. 'Thank you very much, and God bless you, I'll move on.'"
So what happens if you find yourself in the town of Calvert with a ticket in hand? Vicarde has some inside information:
Former Judge Viscarde says small towns bank on no one taking their traffic tickets to court and simply mailing in a check. He said Calvert is incapable of trying cases because it has no prosecutor, and doesn't want to pay for one.
According to WFAA, the state of Texas does have the ability to audit and fine towns who get more than 30 percent of their revenue from traffic tickets, but none of the three towns mention have ever been investigated.