City traffic tickets rise by 47 percent

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 15, 2009

The number of traffic citations issued in 2008 by the Vicksburg Police Department rose by 47 percent over the year previous, with the majority of the 9,558 tickets handed out being for speeding, lack of seat belt use and driving without insurance.

By the numbers

Traffic citations issued by the Vicksburg Police Department by year; 2009 numbers are through the first week of February.

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Chief Tommy Moffett said the increase most likely is due to a doubling of the number of officers assigned to traffic duties on a regular basis, from two in years past to four last year.

“Those four officers account for the bulk of these tickets. I don’t apologize for my officers doing their jobs, because when I came here that’s not what they were doing,” said Moffett, who has consistently contended his force is doing more police work with fewer officers since he took office in October 2001.

Despite the rise in tickets issued, Moffett is quick to note the number of traffic fatalities in the city limits has decreased by 50 percent over the past three years. Six people died on Vicksburg roadways in 2006, he said, while four were killed in 2007 and three in 2008. So far, none has been recorded in Vicksburg this year.

“Did I order an increase (in tickets issued) to get the number (of fatalities) down? No, I haven’t, but I can see a direct correlation between traffic tickets and fatalities,” he said.  

Moffett said revenue created from tickets has “absolutely nothing to do” with the number of citations issued. Traffic officers have no quotas to fill and decide for themselves when a ticket should be issued or when a warning will suffice. There are no plans to further increase the number of officers assigned to traffic duty, and Moffett emphasized last year’s increase did not detract from the number of officers assigned to other duties, such as neighborhood patrols and investigations.  

“We pull our traffic officers from their duties to assist other officers when they’re needed,” he said. “We don’t pull patrolmen or investigators to go out and write tickets.”

The number of officers over the past 12 months has averaged in the low to mid-70s, said Moffett. Currently, 74 are on the payroll, and Moffett said he intends to hire eight more soon. There were 102 officers on the force when Moffett became chief. 

The majority of tickets are issued on U.S. 61 and the main thoroughfares through Vicksburg, said Moffett. Nobody likes getting a ticket, and Moffett said the complaints from ticketed motorists has increased as the economy worsens and money becomes tighter. However, Moffett said there’s one complaint he does not hear.

“I’ve not heard anybody tell me, ‘well, they gave me a speeding ticket when I wasn’t speeding’ or ‘I got a seat belt ticket when I had it on,’” he said. “People say they want accountability from the police, and then criticize us when they get a ticket for breaking the law.” 

Through the first week of February, 1,478 tickets have been issued this year. Moffett said the number of citations issued usually drops in the summer months, when traffic officers are pulled from duty to assist with a summer program that provides activities for school-aged children in Vicksburg. Until then, four officers will be working traffic on a full-time basis — running radar, checking for seat belt compliance and enforcing other traffic laws.

“Our desire is not to give tickets, that’s why we give the lists of where we are going to run radar to the newspaper and radio stations to publicize. It doesn’t make any difference, we can still go to those locations and write tickets all day because people refuse to obey the law,” said Moffett. “Anyone can call us anytime and get a schedule of where we’ll be.”


Contact Steve Sanoski at