The Speed Trap That Trapped Itself

Stringtown is a tiny municipality in the middle of sparsely populated Atoka County, located toward the southeast of Oklahoma. Atoka County, as whole, is about 1,000 square miles, and Stringtown has a population of about 400. It’s not the place one goes to pull off the crime of the century; rather, it’s the place you drive through on your way to somewhere else. Until 2014, the Stringtown Police Department was in charge of policing a 5-mile stretch of Route 69, and if you drove through that area, there was a good chance you’d get a speeding ticket. That’s because for Stringtown, the tickets were important — not for safety, but for revenue. In fact, 73% of all the revenue they collected was from speeding tickets. Both the police department and city hall were built with funds from paid tickets. Under state law, towns can generate no more than 50% of their municipal revenue through speed enforcement, and Stringtown was way, way over that line. The penalty for their infraction was severe. A state investigation found excessive speed trapping and stripped the police department of the authority to issue speeding tickets on Route 69, which is now monitored by the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol.