By on October 10, 2014

Waldo Florida is Hot For Teacher

The city council of Waldo, Fla. — population 1,000 — sternly told its police department to take a seat in the shame bus, disbanding the force after its chief and interim chief both resigned amid an investigation into the town’s reputation as a speed trap.

Associated Press reports the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office will take up where the Waldo Police Department failed, while AAA will consider taking down billboards warning motorists of the speed trap awaiting them.

The path to disbanding began in August, when Chief Mike Szabo was suspended during a probe into allegations of ticket quotas. The same allegations would later take down interim chief Corporal Kenneth Smith a couple of weeks later, with both resigning soon after.

The police force was a cash machine for the city budget, providing half of the $1 million spent annually in Waldo; last year alone, 12,000 tickets between seven officers produced $400,000 in revenue.

Though the country sheriff will oversee law enforcement in the near-term, residents believe speeders and criminals will have carte blanche over Waldo. That said, the residents have recently asked the state government to post a single speed limit for their city; currently, there are six within the two square miles Waldo occupies.

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43 Comments on “Sit Down, Waldo: City Council Disbands Police Over Speed Trap Rep...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Now I’ve heard everything, a government body in Florida does the right thing and for once isn’t the poster child for WTF headlines

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Wow, 8th grade was 30 years ago… Man I still remember seeing that video and thinking how damn lucky that kid was.

    Oh, back on topic. Obligatory “F da police”

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    The city council of Waldo escaped without penalty.
    They knew and encouraged the corrupt actions of the sheriff and police department.
    As did the Waldo electorate.
    A city of con artists preying on motorists for tax revenue.

  • avatar
    Exfordtech

    I don’t know when the city council was elected or who they are, but if half of their budget came from traffic tickets, I would assume they were complicit in the entire operation as well. In fact since I assume they hire the police chief, I would imagine it was their mandate, written or not, that created this situation in the first place. I’m not defending the police here, I just feel there should be more sharing the blame than just the 2 chiefs. The story sounds like Dukes of Hazzard.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      I agree, the whole town was just trying a little enterprise. There’s only so much revenue to be had from letting passers-through count their digits and measure their skulls.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Every bridge has its trolls. I’m guessing there aren’t any convenient options to passing through Waldo unless you’re in an air-o-plane.

    The local residents now need another way to extract some money from all them rich bastards pouring through their little paradise, smirking as they count fingers and toes.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    Six different speed limits within an area of only two square miles? Wow. Just wow.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The city I live in is less than one square mile and has five different speed limits. We have a much higher population density and busier roads than Waldo probably does though.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Where do you live… and is there a bypass?

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I live in Huntington Woods, MI.

          Most people that drive through the city I live in never know they are actually in it. The four major roads that form the border of the city each have different speed limits. Since the police also patrol I-696 we may actaully have six different speed limits. Once you are on normal city streets, it is all 25 MPH.

          Although different from Waldo, people who live in SE Oakland County would call Huntington Woods a speed trap. I think Ronnie and I have discussed it before.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    And, assuming that some of these alleged speeders tried to fight their tickets in court, there must have been some magistrates/judges in on the whole sham as well, no?

    Speeding tickets are an increasingly commonly used form of taxation all over the country. In my brief experience getting a ticket for 5 over in California that ended up costing me nearly $500 in fines and administrative fees, there are a lot of people complicit in these scams… and a lot of hands in the till.

    The police chief should have resigned. Even better he should have gone to prison. But unless they were forcing people to pay in cash on the side of the road at the muzzle of a gun then his staff couldn’t have been the only ones in on the gravy train.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      You are making assumptions that aren’t necessary.

      The sham was likely that the posted limits just simply were easy to violate. Likely, they were set too low or too many changes were made in a short distance. It could easily have all been set up legally, enforced legally, etc.

      Legal has very little to do with fair, sensible, or good. Otherwise, there would be a lot less lawyers.

      Legally, the judge likely had very little grounds to dismiss the tickets. Judges ceased being judges a couple decades ago. The drug war was a big cause of that, but not the only one and it’s not a partisan issue. It’s systemic. They are now referees rather than judges in most cases.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    From 1990 to 2004 I traveled through Waldo at least 4x per year. That town is merely the worst of the half-dozen speed trap towns on US 301–other notables are Lawtey, Starke, and Hawthorne.

    Since at least 1992, AAA has advised going at 40 miles out of the way to avoid this route. The best method has always been to slow down for the towns but go as fast as you want once you leave them to make up for lost time– Florida Highway Patrol doesn’t spend much time out there.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      I’ve traveled that route between Gainesville and Jacksonville since ’82. Been nailed in Lawtey (legit speeding) and Starke (BS ticket). Somehow escaped Waldo with my wallet intact.
      A few years ago Waldo tried to end it’s reputation as a speed trap by allowing a 4 MPH buffer. They used to ticket for 1 MPH over.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    And its not actually like it made money for the city, when you do the math!

    A town of 1k needs one additional full-time officer or two in the county sheriff department to accommodate the extra load, not 7. 7 officers for $400k of revenue means they barely paid their own salary…

  • avatar
    -Nate

    The really sad thing is : this is business as usual most anywhere in The South .

    Then they get all pissy when they loose important Tourist Dollars and people rightly call it ‘ FloriDUH .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Um, the South has no monopoly on speed traps. Every state has small town speed traps, and many big cites throughout the nation are getting in on the speed and red light camera racket. The south actually has an advantage in that most fines seem to be lower than they are in other regions and many states in the region have banned ticketing via speed and red light camera. Southerners try to keep the graft personable and affordable, which is a nice touch.

      But if you want to feel superior to somebody or some region don’t let me stop you.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Differences in state and local laws encourage speed traps in some places more than others.

        When towns are allowed to set their own fines and keep most or all of the revenue, then they have more of an incentive to operate speed traps. Local autonomy is bad for out-of-town drivers.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Exactly this. You are very unlikely to find local speed traps in Maine, because the towns don’t get a penny of the revenue. A few of the wealthy coastal towns are strict about speeding, but that is more because the cops have nothing better to do than it being a speed trap.

          All forms of camera based enforcement are banned here as well.

          • 0 avatar
            Japanese Buick

            Ditto in NC. The state constitution requires all fines to go to the state school stayed so local govts have no financial incentive to write tickets.

        • 0 avatar
          VCplayer

          Local autonomy is fine as long as the state sets correct guidelines.

          That of course being the usual problem.

          It’s not just an issue in the South though. Many New England and Mid-Western states have similar issues with local autonomy that go well beyond speed traps.

        • 0 avatar

          obviously, local control of the roads is a must for a speed trap. The other component is having the right road – namely a road that is the only convenient means of accessing a popular destination routinely visited by people unfamiliar with the area. (Route 29 in Virginia, which goes to UVA, comes to mind, as it’s the only place I’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket). It also helps if the road has lots of medians with trees for cops to hide behind.

          I suspect this may be more common in the South than in areas in the Northeast that are more dense and have more interstates, but it’s not because of racisim/culture, but rather demographics.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        @avatar
        Toad ;

        No , I’m not feeling better than anyone as you’d know if you bothered to read my occasional replies .

        What I am is _honest_ unlike anyone who claims the South isn’t the speed trap capitol of America .

        Only there are towns Police Depts being disbanded for this thievery , no where else in America and this is one of several in 2014 alone .
        Facts ~ they’ll set you free , even if they pi$$ you off .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    Exfordtech

    Per the latest minutes of the city council: I’m shocked, shocked to find that a speed trap is going on in here!

  • avatar

    I’m always happy and surprised when things like this happen. Here in northern Ohio we had a small town called Linnadale that had a half mile or so of highway that generated most of their revenue. The state cracked down on them recently.

    What needs to happen is for the money the police collect from us ( traffic tickets, civil asset forfeitures) go to a place that doesn’t benefit the police, or the city they work for or live in. The incentive for police to collect money needs to be removed, so the motive for traffic stops becomes safety, not profit.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I was pulled over in Linndale last year driving between Downtown Cleveland and Hopkins. I am still not sure if I believe it is an actual place, or just another way for police in Ohio to extract money from me.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Texas reduced the speed trap problem a couple decades ago by mandating the penalties for infractions on major highways be sent to the state if not issued by a jurisdiction of a pretty good size (IOW, if no one has heard of your town, it can’t profit from a speed trap).

      Before that, we had a relief valve provided by certain judges who could, through some strange legal system, dismiss your ticket even though it wasn’t from their county. Towns with trap reps would often find victims in the know could then get their tickets dismissed by simply asserting to these judges that they were innocent.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Anyone heard of the village of New Rome, Ohio? Down by Columbus. The state legislature created a new law just to aid in the dissolution of that little speed trap. New Rome, no more.

      • 0 avatar
        VCplayer

        I was thinking about New Rome while reading this. Anytime you’ve made your neighbors so mad at you that they’re getting your city dissolved, you know you went a little too far.

        Jack’s from Central Ohio, maybe we should try to get him to write a piece on New Rome sometime.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Yeah, but speed-trappery happens all over the country, so if it is part of the state’s revenue generation strategy, like in bankrupt California, what are you gonna do?

          Dissolve the whole state of California?

          I think not.

          • 0 avatar
            VCplayer

            Well given how often different parts of California are thinking about secession, I think the odds are better than you’re giving!

            Seriously though, California just has high taxes in general, and that includes the “tariff for moving around at reasonable speeds.”

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Around here, we have our own massive speed trap…a HUGE down-hill with a 25 mph speed limit…that comes right after a 55 mph speed limit.

    About the only rational guess to why this setup even exists is to keep big rigs from barreling into the tight streets of the town below, but still…it’s a real brake-burner.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Don’t worry, they’ll be welcomed in Summersville West Virginia.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    About 7 years ago, I got a ticket in Lawtey just as they had acquired their new laser gun. The ticket was for 1 mph over the limit. It was probably of no consequence that I was driving my brand new Porsche Cayman S? As for the rest of the south, in Georgia, local cops are supposed to be barred from writing a ticket using radar/laser unless you are going 11 mph over the limit (excluding active school zones). This was done after one of GA’s governors (Lester Maddox?) shut down the infamous Ludowici speed trap, also on Rt 301.

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