A new study out from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock claims local governments use law enforcement to raise revenue during economic hard times. Researchers used traffic ticket data from North Carolina from 1989 to 2003 and found that when government revenue drops 1%, the number of tickets issued goes up 30% the next year.
After reading about this report in the News & Observer, I was fully prepared to condemn this alleged form of bad government behavior. That was until I talked it over with some more of the learned individuals here at Civitas. Another theory came to mind:
- During hard economic times, governments lose revenue.
- Governments must take belt tightening measures and make hard choices about staffing.
- Ticket revenue in North Carolina is designated to go to local schools for technology improvements.
Therefore, the behaviors of individual officers may be influenced not by a sense of tracking down additional revenues for their local schools but rather, out of a sense of self preservation.
Should a public servant feel his job security being threatened, they may be inclined to increase measurable parts of their job performance.
This study also doesn't address any variable behavior by the motorists themselves.
So, until the economy turns around, slow down.