Editor's Note: This is the second installment of the Citation Nation series produced by 9Wants to Know and I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS. The series will continue through Thursday.
NUNN - A police department barely eight years old brings in 40 percent of this small town's revenue thanks to tickets and court fees, a joint investigation by 9Wants to Know and I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS has found.
According to 2013 budget data for 270 towns and cities across the state, Nunn places fourth on the list of cities that make the highest percentages from traffic ticket revenue. The state average is about 4 percent.
Nunn's mayor and chief of police strongly asserts the ticketing is not a revenue generating tool, but is primarily focused on public safety.
9Wants to Know what you think. Are "ticket traps" an example of good government or bad government? A viewer poll, conducted Monday, found 91% of you think they are an example of bad government. Good government got 9% of the 685 votes cast. Thanks to all who participated.
Traffic enforcement is a priority for the department which was first established back in 2007. The town is 107 years old.
Most of the tickets are issued to drivers as they roll through Nunn on Highway 85 near the northern Colorado border.
"It was an issue that the town's people brought up and that's the only reason we brought it up," Mayor Tom Bender told 9Wants to Know during a public meeting. "It's strictly safety. It really is."
Chief of Nunn Police Joe Clingan said it is department policy to only cite people if they drive ten miles over the 45 MPH limit through town.
"We have a significant number of senior citizens here, and they were having difficulty getting on to 85 due to the high speeds," Clingan said.
"Believe me, we want these trucks driving safe, because if something happens out here, it takes a long time to get a flight for life," Mayor Bender added.
Three towns on the same highway just south of Nunn don't ticket at the same levels, according to budget data.
Good for ethics and economics?
In the 9NEWS and I-News Citation Nation series, law enforcement experts and civil rights groups express concern that increased ticketing could paint police as revenue generators and lead to unjustified traffic stops and fines.
Some lawmakers are proposing laws in other states that would put a ticket revenue cap on towns that are heavily reliant on such income.
Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver's proposed Fair Justice Act would, if passed, establish a 30% limit on ticket and court fee revenue for cities and towns across the country.
"You cannot allow police to do taxation by citation," Cleaver told 9NEWS, saying there is already a limit on sales and property taxes. "It is simply not healthy for the united states to allow."
University of Colorado Denver professor Dr. Benoy Jacob, an expert in city finances, said that such heavy reliance on ticket revenue could be a financial risk for municipalities.
"There is the potential that you're going to lose that revenue stream," Jacob said. "Any time you lose a big chunk of revenue like that, that means you need to rethink the programs you're providing."
Mayor Bender said regardless of Nunn's cash flow from tickets, it would still be economically healthy.
"We know going into this is that it [police department] would be self-reliant, and that it is," Bender said. "But it is safety only."
Mayor Bender and Chief Clingan said Nunn no longer has to rely on county deputies for assistance now that it has its own police force.
AIRING THIS WEEK:
Monday at 9 and 10 p.m.: How far will a city go to collect its money?
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
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