By on April 20, 2011

An ongoing federal lawsuit against the speed trap town of Ridgeland, South Carolina uncovered internal emails last month that shed light on the motivation behind the state’s only photo enforcement program. Since July 2010, Ridgeland has allowed the private firm iTraffic to operate a mobile speed camera van on Interstate 95, despite a state law outlawing the practice and a pair of attorney general opinions warning that the photo ticketing was not legal (view opinions).

The lawsuit filed by attorney Pete Strom in December has been expanded to reflect information recently gained from the discovery process. iTraffic has an unusually close relationship with the town and its mayor, Gary W. Hodges. For each ticket issued, iTraffic receives 50 percent of the profit from the $100 to $300 tickets and takes a 66 percent cut on any overdue collections.

Although Hodges points out in his public comments that “police officers” man the automated ticketing vehicle, those individuals are paid by and under the control of iTraffic. In an October 15, 2010 email, iTraffic CEO William Danzell issued orders to Officers David Swinehamer and R. Lowther.

“Starting today please fill out and sign a time card at the RV when you arrive and when you depart,” Danzell wrote. “Your iTraffic 40 work week is determined by the hours deployed. The time cards will be delivered to Jason Cox by you for each day of work. Thanks. Bill.”

In an October 18, 2010 email to Ridgeland town administrator Jason Taylor, Danzell made it clear his primary motivation in deciding when and where to place the cameras was generating the maximum possible number of citations.

“Just a follow-up to our lunch on Friday,” Danzell wrote. “We should be consistently be delivering 120 to 130 tickets to Sandy on a daily basis. The potential is 200 but further improvements are required in the backoffice to achieve this number. We are working on this… but, we are not there yet. I’ll keep you posted. Bill.”

Another iTraffic employee, Jason Cox, ordered a change in the police officers shift in a January 17, 2011 email.

“If possible, I think we should move to 24 hour Friday-Sunday deployments,” Cox wrote. “The numbers show (last week’s data) that we will get a 50 percent increase if we move the weekday deployment to the weekend.”

Strom’s lawsuit argues that the “I-95 Speed Trap Enterprise” violates racketeering statutes by engaging in mail fraud to obtain money from motorists under false pretenses. The suit argues that each mailed citation makes fraudulent claims regarding the legality of the tickets and the consequences of failing to pay. South Carolina law does not recognize the service of citations by mail.

Source: PDF File iTraffic emails (Ridgeland, South Carolina, 4/19/2011)


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13 Comments on “South Carolina: Internal Emails Reveal Speed Trap Profit Motive...”

  • avatar

    People wonder why so many are mistrustful of government.  Governments often hide or disguise their motivations.  I expect a company to have a profit motive, I know what to expect.  Government always wants us to believe they have our interests in mind, but that is a load of malarkey.

  • avatar

    There are privately ran prisons, and privately hired officers. Imagine if profit was a motive here as well. Would we allow privately ran prisons to decide who is to go to prison, or how long a prison sentence should be?

    This is an unethical set up. It should never have been allowed to exist. Regardless of how well it is ran, how noble the people are, how effective they have been, how careful they are in issuing tickets, or whether they issue hundreds – or NONE – this is an unethical situation that should have never been allowed.

    The motivator here is money, not power. However, because we are using the same system as we would regarding public safety and law enforcement, we are seeing an abuse of power in order to get money. This is extremely bad and unhealthy for a democratic society.

    This is a case where a government has decided that it is best for a private firm to handle these cases in this manner. Doing it this way saves tax payer’s money, and government leaders who have been listening to us tell them that our governments should be operated more efficiently, and like a business, have come to believe that this is a proper thing to do. Governments can collect tickets for cash, with or without hiring private firms. In this case, we are seeing governments reaching a level of cynicism regarding this issue, that led them to do this.

    A possible solution here is to mandate that all traffic fines collected in this manner be put into a state fund that does not directly benefit the communities where the tickets were issued. This would eliminate the profit motive behind these tickets. Then you no longer allow the State to enforce this kind of ticketing offense, so that there would be no connections between fines collected, the issuers of the tickets, and the beneficiaries of the fines.

    We are making everyday law-abiding Americans criminals because of the costs of law enforcement and the tradition of issuing fines for ticketing offenses. Instead of collecting criminals or monitoring criminal activities in order to protect us, we are seeing a marked increase in the number of law enforcement officers trolling regular folks looking for cash for a city, county or state budget.

    The focus over the past ten years and especially over the past three, has been making criminals of cell phoning minivan driving moms taxiing kids to school. This is a very bad practice. It forces governments to intrude into the daily lives of innocent people, making a mockery of governments, law enforcement officers, our judicial systems, and the laws we pass.

    • 0 avatar

      Or worse, yet, imagine if the profit motive were to affect our heath care system! Oh, wait…

    • 0 avatar

      “There are privately ran prisons, and privately hired officers. Imagine if profit was a motive here as well. Would we allow privately ran prisons to decide who is to go to prison, or how long a prison sentence should be?”

      Who do you think funds tough-on-crime political candidates and backs three-strike laws etc.? 

      For-profit prison operators have a nice racket going as long as their paid-for hacks in state and federal office ensure a steady supply of inmates.  This is why the US has far and away the world’s highest incarceration rate, all paid for by taxpayer money.


      • 0 avatar

        Who do you think funds tough-on-crime political candidates and backs three-strike laws etc.?
        For-profit prison operators of course, but not the ones you’re thinking of.  It’s the public employees who profit from operating state run corrections systems.
        California is the textbook example of a legislature being hands on in sentencing.  Read up on what the CCPOA has to do with that.

  • avatar

    Maybe people should send fake money for their fake ticket. Operating it along a federally supported highway probably violates some obscure federal law, send in the lawyers.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe anyone is surprised that speed traps are set up to make money and there is some planning involved to get the maximum revenue.  Likewise, how can anyone seeing the plethora of red light camera articles be surprised that a contractor with a profit motive won’t try review revenue opportunities even more to maximize their cut?  Local government is as corrupt as any other, if not more so and in ways that directly impact citizens.  The problem isn’t the motivations of the officials or the contractors (an informed electorate should be taking care of that, the failure of which is another story).  It’s the fact the state does not allow them to do what they are doing.

  • avatar

    So if this is Not Permitted then the police should pull up to the van and ask them to cease and desist.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Sending illegal tickets via the US Mail service?  That’s defrauding people via the US Mail, a FEDERAL MAIL FRAUD OFFENSE, is it not?

    Ridgeland town administrator Jason Taylor, anyone else in the city who has touched this and all employees of this company should be up on Federal Mail law offenses. Then if found guilty, they should spend time in FEDERAL PENITENTIARY for their crimes.

    That’d teach them.  It might even stop some of the other criminals disguised as “public servants” from doing such things in future.

    • 0 avatar

      You mean a “pound you in the a$$ federal pen?”  I loved Office Space.
      All automated ticketing schemes should be made illegal.  End of discussion.

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