Thursday, May 22, 2014

Linndale starved for cash without its traffic court -- so it's ticketing more*

Update and correction, 1/16/15: 

Something bothered me in the months after I wrote this post. If Linndale was ticketing more, why did I hardly ever see Linndale police on I-71? Why were other people telling me the same?

I've studied the Parma Municipal Court docket and talked to a court manager.  The result is a new post, in which I report that Linndale's speed trap is now on the decline: fewer tickets in 2014 than in 2013.

I now think the number of new Linndale cases may have also declined slightly from 2012 to 2013. I mistakenly compared the Parma court's annual report for 2013, which listed charges, with the Supreme Court's mayor's court report for 2012, which listed cases (involving multiple charges).

Also, Chris Castro, a manager with the Parma Municipal Court, says the Parma court filed about 800 special cases from Linndale in July 2013 alone. Those cases replaced old outstanding warrants from the Linndale court. They were not new offenses.

I've used strikethroughs to mark errors in this post. Please see the new post for a fuller picture.


Linndale, the tiny town that lives off its I-71 speed trap, has lost at least half its budget without its traffic court – but it’s ticketing more than ever.

The microvillage -- which boasts an official, inflated population count of 179 -- has been hurting since March 2013, when the state abolished mayor’s courts in tiny towns. Now we know how much Linndale has lost: about three-fourths of the money it made off leadfooted motorists.

For years, Linndale got about $800,000 annually from its mayor’s court -- most of the village’s $1 million budget. Now, village police send cases to Parma Municipal Court -- 6,971 in 2013. But Linndale only gets 36 percent of the revenue from fines: $168,449 last year.

Linndale is now the Parma court’s second largest source of cases out of eight suburbs -- far beyond North Royalton (population 30,444) and Parma Heights (population 20,718). The mini-burb with a quarter-mile stretch of I-71 generates ten times as many cases as Broadview Heights, population 19,400, which has two miles of I-77. The village singlehandedly caused the court’s caseload to jump by 16 percent last year, the court's annual report shows.

Linndale’s police got busier last year, even though the town slashed its payroll. Those 6,971 cases charges sent to Parma's court in 2013 compare to 4,677 cases Linndale’s court handled in 2012, according to the Ohio Supreme Court’s mayor’s court report.

[Correction: Parma's court handled 4,102 cases from Linndale in 2013, containing 6,971 chargesLinndale's mayor's court handled 1,126 new cases in 2013 before it was shut down, but an unknown number were transferred to Parma and would appear in both courts' totals.]

A breakdown of Linndale’s 6,971 cases charges turns up some DUIs and drug cases charges. But the vast majority are moving violations.

Linndale’s million-dollar budget is no more. It’ll have to get by on less: about $100,000 from taxes, about $200,000 from the Parma court.

Not licked yet, village residents adopted a charter in September (by an overwhelming 16-2 vote). That gave the town the power to install speed cameras on some of its seven surface streets, including Memphis Avenue (pdf). Village officials also hoped to create a “waiver bureau” to recapture lost ticket revenue. But the cases are still flowing to Parma’s court.

Maybe Linndale will fall into a downward spiral: less money, fewer cops, fewer tickets, and even less money. Maybe its freeway speed trap will shrink until the village either becomes self-sufficient or merges with Cleveland or Brooklyn. Or, will the Linndale police churn out more and more tickets to keep up?

Click here to read Cleveland Magazine’s 2011 story about Linndale’s inflated census figures. The story helped inspire the abolition of mayor’s courts in tiny towns.


Ian Hoffman said...

So the net effect of the Legislature's crackdown is that the overticketing problem in Lindale is worse? File that under "unintended consequences."

Big Daddy said...

Unintended? This was the logical conclusion and the legislature knew it. This law was passed for an elected official to earn brownie points.