Here in Northeast Florida where E3 Spark Plugs is based, there’s a tiny town a few counties over called Waldo. And when we say tiny, we mean seriously tiny. The town’s total landmass measures just 2.17 square miles and its population is a not-so-whopping 1,015 according to the latest census. Despite its diminutive size, this crazy little town has managed a national reputation as a notorious speed trap. And now, it’s made national news for its dubious practices.
If you’ve ever visited the area and asked for directions or recommendations, you’ve likely heard it – “Don’t speed through Waldo.” And if you didn’t take that sage advice, you likely regretted it as soon as those blue lights lit up your ride’s rear window. Yes – speeding tickets for going 32 in a 30 were daily occurrences. So infamous is Waldo for its ticket-happy traffic cops that the National Motorists Association ranked it third in its list of America’s “Worst Speed Trap Cities.” And AAA, one of the nation’s leading traffic safety advocates, deemed the practice such a blatant money grab that in 2003, it began posting speed trap warning billboards all along Route 301 leading into the town.
But that dubious honor may soon be a thing of the past. Recently, five fed up officers spilled to the city council that their boss, Cpl. Kenneth Smith, had long imposed a “strict ticket quota” on staff. Soon after, Smith resigned and city council members made a surprising but welcome move, voting 4-to-1 to disband Waldo’s police department.
The five officers’ allegations prompted an ongoing investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Among the factors they’re reviewing are the fact that Waldo in the past has derived as much as 73 percent of its overall budget from traffic fines alone; and that while the ideal ratio of police to citizens is 2.5 officers for every 1,000 citizens, Waldo had eight. Organizations like AAA are happy to see something being done.
“AAA condemns traffic enforcement practices that are designed to raise revenue rather than prevent crashes,” a spokesman said. “AAA condemns all practices whereby a law enforcement agency rates the efficiency of its officers based upon the number of arrests made or citations issued.”
What do you think, E3 Spark Plugs fans? Did you get hit with a questionable fine in Waldo or another notorious speed trap? Post your stories on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook Fan Page.