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These small Arkansas towns are facing problems after breaking speed trap law

Two small Arkansas towns were pushed into the spotlight, and have been seeing problems ever since they were caught breaking the speed trap law.

ARKANSAS, USA — As many of us get in our vehicles and go for a drive, whether it be to go on a long commute, a road trip, or wherever it may be— Some people may have found either a city or stretch of open road, where they know to try and slow down in order to avoid a speeding ticket. 

Those areas are more commonly known as speed traps, and Arkansas has various ways to protect drivers from unfair speed traps. Though problems could persist for those who are caught breaking the law.

Mayor Gary Green of Menifee explained how he knows that all too well.

He's seen a lot during his time as mayor, but nothing like what he's experienced the past few months.

"It's really a downfall, and it's gonna hurt," Green said. "It's gonna hurt us a lot."

At the end of his term, he expected to go out quietly, but instead, he and his town have been pushed into a spotlight of their own creation.

"We always had this stigma as a speed trap in the first place," Green said. "Now, we also, got it stamped on us."

Back in August, we first reported on how Menifee, a town with a population of less than 300, was caught breaking Arkansas' speed trap law. 

Under that law, no city is allowed to have more than 30% of its annual revenue come from traffic citations.

Robert Steinbuch, a professor at the Bowen School of Law, explained that it takes a lot to even come close to that.

"Municipalities shouldn't be earning the bulk of their income from speeding tickets," he said. "Speeding tickets are supposed to be a method to enforce safe driving."

The town of Menifee collected around $120,000 in 2020, which was nearly half of the city's revenue for the entire year.

"You abuse your ability to give out tickets, and you use it for revenue enhancement," Steinbuch said. "Guess what? Now you don't get any revenue from it for a year."

Now, Menifee is not allowed to write speeding tickets for a year, which is something that can hit small towns pretty hard.

"It's scary because we don't know what emergency might arise that we might need that revenue," Green added. "We don't know yet."

While Menifee may be the most recent city that was caught breaking the law, Damascus is another city that comes to mind for many in Arkansas.

"Go ahead and call me, Gary," Damascus Mayor, Terry Jones, said. "It's gonna be a tough ride for the next year or two."

Jones is a new mayor with an old problem because back in 2018, Damascus was caught breaking the speed trap law.

Four years later, the problems have continued to linger. 

Money had to be diverted from other city departments to make ends meet, and worst of all for Jones, they had to shrink departments to nothing.

"We went from a police force of four down to zero," he explained. "We're back up to one."

Like Menifee, Damascus also has a busy road that runs right through the middle of town. 

Jones has been quick to point out that even with that, he claimed they never meant to break the law— He said they were only trying to keep their people safe.

"There's no need to blow through a town going 65, 70 miles an hour when it's stated 45 miles an hour all the way through town," Jones described.

With his city left to deal with the consequences, and having seen another city held accountable as well, Jones has remained hopeful for change.

"I'm not saying it's a bad law, but it's one of those that hurts smaller towns over large municipalities," he said. "Maybe bringing things to light that maybe wasn't to light before on how this kind of isolates smaller communities, maybe that will help."

Smaller towns typically have smaller budgets, which makes them much more likely to hit that 30% threshold.

"It's gonna hurt, it's gonna hurt," Green said. "We haven't felt it yet, but we will, even if we don't feel it next year, the year after."

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