Editor's Note: This is the third installment of the Citation Nation series produced by 9Wants to Know and I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS. The series will continue through Thursday.
MOUNTAIN VIEW - A 12-block town with 10 police officers made more than half its revenue from traffic tickets and court fees, an investigation by 9Wants to Know and I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS found.
Mountain View, which sits in the Denver area, continues to cite drivers as they unknowingly pass through the town's borders near Sheridan Boulevard and West 44th Avenue in Denver.
Last year, 9Wants to Know exposed the towns ticketing scheme that focused on dangling air fresheners and cracked windshields.
Mountain View is the second biggest ticket farm in Colorado, according to the 9NEWS Citation Nation series, which is revealing the cities that rely the most on tickets. The series is using comprehensive 2013 budget data to show which towns make the biggest percentages on citations and fees.
The state's average is about 4 percent made from fines and fees.
Finally the mayor speaks
For the first time, Mountain View Mayor Jeff Kiddie spoke to 9NEWS on camera about the town's ticketing philosophy.
"We haven't done anything illegal, haven't done anything wrong," Kiddie said while claiming the 9NEWS investigation curbed the number of drivers rolling through his town. "We're the poster child now for this. It's helped us, whether you like it or not, it's helped us."
Kiddie disputed claims Mountain View is heavily reliant on ticket revenue, yet an analysis of recent budget projections shows the town is expected to make about 40 percent on that income this year.
"I don't look at it as revenue to be perfectly honest with you. I look at it as public safety," Kiddie said.
Arrested after a defective-tire citation, ordered to pay more
While interviewing drivers at Mountain View's court this month, 9Wants to Know came across the story of Ashlee Lucero, 23, who was arrested after getting a defective-tire citation in September.
"They're still trying to take money out of my pocket," Lucero said.
9Wants to Know obtained Lucero's court file and learned she was cited for an $80 "defective tire." She made a payment in $55, but then was arrested for failing to appear in court to explain why she missed a payment in December.
A certified letter sent from Mountain View alerting Lucero of her warrant reveals she didn't receive the notice until about a week after she was booked in the Adams County Detention Center. Lucero was arrested on the bench warrant when she was pulled over by a state trooper in January.
"I'm pretty upset with it," Lucero said. "I was taking care of my baby girl and a misunderstanding happened. I went to jail for it, and I'm still coming to court for it."
Lucero's courtroom quagmire continues and she now has been forced to pay $175 with added fines and fees.
The ACLU of Colorado said municipal courts like Mountain View's can ensnare the poor into financial quicksand because of added court fees and surcharges.
"First of all, you know that's not a public safety issue. You know that this is just revenue, and it is not intended to protect the public good or keep the public safe," said Denise Maes of the ACLU in Colorado.
Mayor Kiddie defended Mountain View's arrest of Lucero, saying citing the defective tire citation as a safety issue.
"I think if she doesn't do what she's supposed to do, then I think it's fair," Kiddie said.
AIRING THIS WEEK:
Tuesday at 9 and 10 p.m.: A speed trap you can see from space
Wednesday at 9 and 10 p.m.: What happens when a city cuts back on writing tickets?
Thursday at 9 and 10 p.m.: The Colorado town that only exists because of ticket revenue
(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)