Misleading numbers? Naples issues more traffic tickets per resident than any other Florida city

Naples Police Department Master Officer Rodney Dent issues a speeding ticket south of a school zone on Goodlette-Frank Road in Naples. Tristan Spinski/Staff

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Naples Police Department Master Officer Rodney Dent issues a speeding ticket south of a school zone on Goodlette-Frank Road in Naples. Tristan Spinski/Staff

1. Naples — 389.65

2. Gainesville — 215.91

3. Melbourne — 212.30

4. DeLand — 198.87

5. Orange City — 193.66

Source: Florida Benchmarking Consortium 2011 annual report

Naples police hand out more traffic citations per resident than any other municipality tracked by the Florida Benchmarking Consortium, according to a 2011 report.

Last year, city police issued 390 citations per 1,000 residents, according to the report. That is more than triple the average number of citations (122) issued by the other cities.

But the data doesn't take into account Naples' seasonal population swells, tourists or county residents who travel through the city.

The city might actually fall in line with the rest of the state due to this shortcoming, acknowledged Ray Scher, chairman for the consortium's board of directors.

"That's why you always have to be kind of careful with the numbers because you could tell a different story with they way they're collected," Scher said.

Launched in 2004, the Florida Benchmarking Consortium is a voluntary program, which solicits, compiles and redistributes data on the inner-workings of various departments for 39 of Florida's 410 cities. It is a venue for sharing best practices.

In the case of traffic citations, the data is compared to each city's permanent population.

Naples' permanent population is about 19,500, said Assistant City Manager Roger Reinke. In peak season, that number can spike to 35,000.

Further, the consortium acknowledges that each city also has what is called a daily service population — the estimated number of people who come through town and use city services every day. That includes everyone from Collier and Lee county residents driving to work in Naples to tourists passing through.

Reinke estimates Naples' daily service population to be about 50,000 based on traffic counts for the city's main roadways, though no formal study has been done to determine that figure.

When the city's annual citations are compared to that figure, Naples comes closer to the state average with about 150 citations per 1,000 people.

"I'm sure we write the majority of tickets not for residents, but those who visit the city and work in the city," Naples Police Chief Tom Weschler said.

Greg Strakaluse, director of the city's streets and stormwater department, said the city keeps quarterly traffic counts for motorists along Goodlette-Frank Road and monthly reports for U.S. 41. In 2011, those numbers showed the anticipated yearly increase in traffic, which sees its highest numbers in February, March and April.

In April 2011, 64,670 motorists traveled along U.S. 41 compared to 42,267 motorists in September of the same year. Similar patterns are reflected in quarterly counts for the city's other roadways.

Weschler said the city staffs 71 sworn officers year round, and does not change that count during season. The department does implement holiday plans which include increased patrols of major corridors and destinations like the Coastland Center mall, where shoppers flock.

Weschler said his officers are not made to meet quotas for issuing traffic citations, despite the common misconception.

The consortium's report states that there is no universally accepted calculation for a city's daily service population, though some cities have attempted to estimate. Scher said he doesn't know how a city would begin to measure that number.

"It gets tricky," he said, adding that Miami Beach struggles with that figure, too.

"They're similar in the respect that they have a very large influx in the winter months as compared to some places up in Central Florida or North Florida, toward the middle of the state," Scher said. "Everybody has their own little nuance."

But when taken in that context, the consortium's annual report can be helpful for those cities that choose to participate, Scher said.

"A number of cities and counties will use the numbers just to gain insight," he said.

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Comments » 1

jcwconsult writes:

"I'm sure we write the majority of tickets not for residents, but those who visit the city and work in the city," Naples Police Chief Tom Weschler said.

The above is almost certain to be true. When you see data from cities that write an outrageous number of tickets per unit population, the scam is almost always to write mostly visitors and commuters who do not have the ability to vote in local elections. That way the predatory ticketing scams for profit can continue with no practical way for the revenue-targets to stop the scams.

Outrageously high ticket numbers almost always mean that the speed limits and other traffic engineering factors are deliberately mis-set to facilitate more speed traps and other scams to ticket for revenue. They virtually never reflect ticketing to try to reduce an overly-high accident rate or any other legitimate safety issue.

Naples has a LONG list of reported speed traps on speedtrap (dot) org that people can review to try to stay out of the traps.

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

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