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Where are you most likely to get a ticket in Tampa Bay? | News

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Where are you most likely to get a ticket in Tampa Bay?
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TAMPA BAY, Florida - Budget cuts and new crime trends have meant new challenges for police departments all across Tampa Bay and, in most cases, it's resulted in fewer tickets for motorists.

The 10 News Investigators crunched five years worth of numbers from every law enforcement agency in Tampa Bay, and every one of the eight sheriff's offices wrote fewer citations in 2010 than in 2009. 

Most police departments had similar declining numbers, but several of the area's smallest departments bucked the trend.

In Tarpon Springs, officers wrote 71 percent more tickets in 2010 than in 2009. In Zephyrhills, there was an 82 percent jump from 2009 to 2010.  And in Dade City, there was an 89 percent increase in citations after a 30 percent jump from 2008 to 2009.

"Every one of my officers is a dedicated traffic unit," says Dade City Police Chief Ray Velboom.  "Follow the laws of the state of Florida and if you don't, we're going to give you a ticket.  We're trying to make this a safer community."

Velboom has been chief for two-and-a-half years and took full credit for the tidal wave of tickets. He says the focus on traffic has had a positive effect on the city's crime rate as well as keeping its roads fatality-free.

Look up citations written by any local agency:

Dade City also received grant money for its ticket-writing in 2010, as high marks in the Florida Law Enforcement Challenge, a statewide program aimed at making roads safer, earned the department tens of thousands of dollars in new technology to catch speeders.

The Tarpon Springs Police Department (TSPD) had different reasons for its jump in citations, citing construction on US-19 and Keystone Rd. 

"(Officers) have been writing tickets there to protect the workers and the drivers," said Capt. Jeffrey Young.  "Our officers have been conducting on-going enforcement (on Keystone) in an effort to keep the speeds down in this construction area for the safety of the workers and motorist."

Young says TSPD also strictly enforces Klosterman Rd, which has become a bigger problem since expanding from two lanes to four lanes.  And many neighborhoods ask for police enforcement for stop sign and speeding violations too.

Like Dade City, the Zephyhills Police Department saw citations rise with the arrival of new administration.  The department has trained more officers on RADAR and Laser to keep speeds down and the roads safer. 

Captain Robert McKinney says the area "shows a significant increase in seat belt usage and decrease in fatal traffic crashes" and "traffic enforcement is one of the varied strategies that law enforcement uses to help keep communities safe."

Even with steep increases in citations issued in 2010, neither Zephyrhills nor Tarpon Springs saw an increase in revenue from fines from FY09 to FY10.  The prevailing theory is that fewer violators are paying fines because of the economy.

The Investigators found just one municipality with recently-increased revenues from officers writing more tickets.  Dade City took in $32,920 in fiscal year 2010 and was predicting $43,920 in fiscal year 2011.

Velboom says the state keeps most ticket revenue and is not a consideration at all in whether his officers write citations.  He says his officers don't like writing tickets, but if it teaches someone a possibly life-saving lesson, it's worth it.

Connect with 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky or Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky.  Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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