Saturday, Sep 22, 2018
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Ticket trap


Woodville police officers stop a motorist along U.S. 20 on the east side of the village.

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The Village of Woodville has abused northwest Ohio motorists for far too long with its blatant use of speed traps. If a boycott of the town’s businesses is needed finally to get the attention of its public officials, so be it.

A Blade investigation found that Woodville’s police force issues more speeding citations than do officers in much larger local communities, such as Maumee, Oregon, and Walbridge. The village’s five full-time and six part-time police officers wrote 1,173 speeding tickets last year — 106 citations per officer. The annual number of speeding tickets written in Woodville has been increasing.

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Last year, fines for traffic violations amounted to 14.25 percent of the village’s general revenues. The conclusion is inescapable: Woodville officials are using speeding tickets primarily to raise revenue, not to enforce the law. That priority can only create public disrespect for the village’s policing.

Woodville has earned the reputation of a speed-trap town that motorists avoid. The Sandusky County village, bisected by busy U.S. 20, is notorious: The 60 mph highway speed limit abruptly drops to 45 mph at the village limit, then to 35 mph, and finally to 25 mph in the central business district. It’s nothing new; along Main Street is a restaurant called the Speedtrap Diner & Dairy.

Woodville’s police chief, Roy Whitehead, says that village police issue more warnings than citations for speeding, although the former appear to go disproportionately to village residents. The chief also denies that his department writes tickets to raise revenue.

He insists that the Ohio Department of Transportation, not village government, is responsible for setting the speed limits on the portions of U.S. 20 that pass through Woodville. But other Toledo-area communities enforce their speed limits without maintaining speed traps.

Woodville’s approach to traffic enforcement has led to other questionable actions by its police officers. Last November, a 5-year-old Labrador retriever approached the scene of a traffic stop in front of his owners’ business. An officer said the dog approached him in an unfriendly way, and did not respond to commands to stop. Witnesses said the dog was not acting aggressively and did not pose a threat.

Allegedly fearing for his safety and that of the two people he had pulled over, the officer shot the dog, striking it in a leg. That leg was amputated last week after it failed to heal.

A speed trap is not a legitimate tool of law enforcement. No community should punish drivers unfairly to supplement its treasury. Until the village ends this unethical practice, there may be no alternative but to hit Woodville in its wallet.

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