SPEED ZONES: Where public safety means revenue for towns

Kenmore Police Captain Thomas Phillips has a message for speeding drivers. 

“You're better off just driving the speed limit,” he said. 

It’s a lesson that driver Stephen Kern learned the hard way.

He's already been caught twice for speeding by police in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda -- and he's still a little bitter about the experience.

“There’s no keeping the public safe,” Kern said as he drove through Kenmore. “It’s all just...how can we raise our profits?”

 

Drivers like Kern bring in big bucks for local court systems.  The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team dug through two state datasets and found that speeding tickets are the number one source of revenue for most municipal courts.

  • Buffalo Police wrote 4,500 speeding tickets in the last year, bringing in more than $748,000 to the city treasury.
  • In the suburbs, the Town of Tonawanda is tops with an average of 6,500 tickets per year...which last year helped bring in $2 million in court revenue.
  • Amherst was right behind with 5,600 tickets, bringing in $3 million.
  • Cheektowaga writes 4,700 tickets each year, generating 2 million in revenue.

But if you divide court revenue by the size of the municipality, Kenmore tops the list, pulling in $484,000 for a village that is just one square mile. That makes up about 3 percent of the village budget.

Phillips has heard all sorts of explanations from speeding drivers.

“[They say], ‘I have to go to the bathroom.’ Late for work’s a big one,” Phillips said.

But he says speed enforcement -- the limit is 30 mph in Kenmore -- is all about keeping people safe.

“The revenue never crossed my mind,” Phillips said. “I never saw dollar signs. Even in a place where we’re known for issuing tickets, I still get complaints that there’s speeding going on.”

“[They say], ‘I have to go to the bathroom.’ Late for work’s a big one.”

Starr Ango is someone who appreciates traffic enforcement in Kenmore.

“Cars are speeding through our parking lot, just so that they don’t catch the light,” Ango said. 

Ango is just starting up a new hair extension business in Kenmore. 

She’s counting on foot traffic for new customers and she’s happy the police are tough on speeders.

“That’s the last thing I need, someone hitting my kids and they’re in the hospital, or injuring me,” she said. 

Drivers say there's plenty of speed traps in Kenmore and many other places. Go to speedtrap.org, and you'll see people complaining about:

  • South Forest Road in Amherst.
  • The 290 near Millersport Highway.
  • Route 400 in West Seneca.
Check out New York's breakdowns of when the most traffic violations occur by month, day of the week, or gender from New York's official database

State data shows you’re more likely to be ticketed in the summer months and on the weekend.

The data also shows men are twice as likely than women to receive speeding tickets. 

However good you may be at playing the averages, Phillips says there’s only one sure way to avoid a date in traffic court.

“It’s easy to avoid a ticket,” he said. “Just abide by the law.”

 

 

 

 

Town by Town breakdown of Ticket Revenue

 

The City of Buffalo is not listed on the most recent state spreadsheet because it did not run its own traffic court until this year. After receiving permission from Albany, the city now runs its own Traffic Violations Bureau. 

 

Also, the numbers are lower than what other media outlets have previously reported because Buffalo parking commissioner Kevin Helfer provided numbers for speeding tickets only. 

 

The figures for town courts are compiled differently and reflect the entire court revenue, the majority of which comes from speeding tickets.

 

 
Charlie Specht

Charlie Specht is the lead Investigate Reporter on the WKBW I-Team.

If you have a news tip for the I-Team, you can email Charlie here