DETROIT (AP) — Michigan courts and municipalities are seeing a drop in revenue as police officers are writing a historically low number of traffic tickets.
The State Court Administrator’s Office said there were almost 1.4 million traffic citations handled in district courts in 2016, a 45 percent drop-off since 2006, The Detroit News reported .
Statewide ticket revenue has dropped from around $150 million in 2006 to about $100 million in 2016, according to the state House Fiscal Agency.
Experts believe police staffing shortages are largely responsible for the decrease.
“The backbone of our police department is response to the community, doing police runs,” said Dearborn Heights deputy police chief Michael Petri. “We’ve got to protect our citizens, so when you don’t have enough officers, traffic details get cut.”
The number of officers in Dearborn Heights has dropped from 86 in 2006 to 44, Petri said. Officers have written 59 percent fewer tickets from 2006 to 2016.
Increasing public scrutiny over police interactions with citizens have made some officers more reluctant to pull over drivers for minor infractions.
“Every car has two or three people with cellphone cameras in it now, and they’re videotaping the officer’s every move, and being confrontational,” said James Tagnanelli, president of the Police Officers Association of Michigan, the state’s largest police union. “It’s not like the officers have anything to hide, but that can be very distracting, and it can take their focus off the matter at hand.”
A change in how speed limits are set has also affected ticket rates, with many areas raising the speed limit based on a 2016 law, said Jim Walker, legislative director of the National Motorists Association’s Michigan branch. The law requires communities to set limits based on what speed 85 percent of drivers travel. The number of driveways and cross streets on a stretch of road also affects the limits.