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Paid traffic tickets helped build Oklahoma town's city hall, police department

Earlier in the month, when Oklahoma law enforcement officials stripped Stringtown Police Department of the authority to write traffic tickets along U.S. 69, it wasn't the first time Stringtown had been labeled a speed trap.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: January 26, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: January 26, 2014

Earlier in the month, when state law enforcement officials stripped a small town police department of the authority to write traffic tickets along U.S. 69, it wasn't the first time Stringtown had been labeled a speed trap.

Not by a long shot.

In fact, Stringtown is probably Oklahoma's most notorious speed trap. Type the words “Oklahoma speed trap” into your favorite Internet search engine, and you'll be reading about the small town in southeastern Oklahoma in no time.

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety announced Jan. 13 that Stringtown's police department no longer would be allowed to enforce traffic laws on state and federal highways that run through the town.

After an investigation — which had been requested by the state attorney general's office — it was determined that Stringtown generated too much revenue through police-related activities.

State law prohibits cities and towns from generating more than half of their revenue through the collection of traffic fine payments.

According to the most recent audit of Stringtown's finances, the town generated $483,646 in fines during fiscal year 2013. That figure represents 76 percent of all Springtown revenue.

The year before, traffic fines accounted for about the same amount of cash, or 73 percent of all revenue in fiscal year 2012.

Both totals are well above the 50-percent threshold and appear to reveal a clear violation of state law.

The recent action taken against Stringtown isn't the first time a state agency has stepped in and forced the small town to cease writing traffic tickets.

In the early 1990s, after an investigation by the state Transportation Department, the speed limit was raised to 55 mph on U.S. 69 through all parts of Stringtown.

Mike Mayberry, a former transportation department spokesman, said Stringtown had been under investigation during the 1980s, as well.

“There was a move around the first of the year to do a study of speed traps around the state,” Mayberry said. “Stringtown was among many towns which have been corrected.”

In the mid-2000s, Stringtown police officers were stripped of their authority to write tickets along U.S. 69, causing the department to effectively shut down. Several other towns, including Big Cabin, also had action taken against them around the same time.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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