Data reporting

Weber County Sheriff’s Office doubled tickets last year; ticket revenue up 21 percent

May 4, 2018

Weber County Sheriff Sgt. Cortney Ryan speaks with a driver who was driving erratically in Marriott-Slaterville on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Since late 2016, the Weber County Sheriff’s Office has made a deliberate effort to increase traffic enforcement and citations. The change is intended to increase traffic safety while also decreasing burglaries and other neighborhood crimes. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)

By SHEILA WANG • Standard-Examiner staff

WEBER COUNTY — The Weber County Sheriff’s Office handed out more than 8,000 citations last year, an 85 percent increase from 2016, according to data obtained from the sheriff’s office.

Chief Deputy Klint Anderson said the sheriff’s office deliberately increased enforcement of traffic violations since late 2016 and will continue to do so to reduce crashes and law violations.

“We’re actually more comfortable this way,” Anderson said, noting the sheriff’s office had to be less focused in this area before due to being short-staffed.

The number of tickets written last year – 8,320 – beats the combined total of citations in 2015 and 2016, data shows. That averages to each patrol deputy writing at least one ticket on every 12-hour shift last year.

Anderson said in a statement that residents and elected officials often ask the sheriff’s office to patrol certain areas more closely, and top sheriff’s office officials have asked deputies to increase patrols in “hot spots” with a history of frequent crashes. Deputies are also asked to conduct more aggressive enforcement of traffic violations, including minor offenses such as rolling through stop signs and non-functioning lights.

Police believe these tactics are effective crime deterrents.

Even with the increase of enforcement, Anderson said in his statement that the ratio of traffic stops to citations was still relatively low.

“Usually this means that for every citation written, there are several other traffic stops in which the deputy merely gave the driver a written or verbal warning.”

Brandon Fuller, a resident of Eden, frowns upon the new norm of traffic enforcement in Weber County.

“If you’re driving a vehicle now, you’re a target,” he said.

He noticed last summer deputies pulling over more vehicles near Ogden Canyon, and it wasn’t long before Fuller says he became “a target.”

It was a Sunday night in December when Fuller was driving his 6-year-old son back home from a birthday party on Highway 158. He saw a police vehicle flip the blue-and-red lights when Fuller was just half a mile from home.

The officer told Fuller he was going 12 mph over the 40 mph speed. Fuller said he thought the limit was 45 mph, citing two speed limit signs right across Highway 158, north to the Valley Market.

After exchanging a few words with the officer, Fuller ended up with a ticket for driving without a valid driver’s license.

Fuller later found his ticket was one of 367 citations written by the same deputy, Joshua Creamer, who only worked with the sheriff’s office for nine months last year.

Creamer was the second highest ticket-writer of the sheriff’s office in 2017, only 17 tickets short of the No. 1 ticketer, John C. Millaway, according to data obtained from the sheriff’s office.

The interactive data above shows the number of citations handed out by the top 10 ticketers from 2014 to 2017.

Ten deputies gave more than 200 citations last year, including three who handed out more than 300 citations each. In 2014, only two deputies gave out more than 200 tickets.

Roughly a third of all citations issued by the sheriff’s office last year came from the top 10 list.

Seven out of those 10 were new deputies hired after 2015.

“I guess it’s their enthusiasm,” Anderson said, adding that the number of citations has nothing to do with how much money they make.

‘Where did the money go?’

“I just feel like when you doubled citations from 4,000 to 8,000, where did that money go?” Fuller asked.

The chief deputy responded that it is a public misunderstanding that citations are used to generate revenue. The ticket revenue, in accordance with state law, does not go back directly into sheriff’s office at all. It is forwarded to the State of Utah through a contracted justice court.

Per Utah law, a $50 security surcharge is imposed on each traffic violation, which is distributed among the State of Utah, local courts and governments. A small portion of that  — $16 per traffic violation — is allocated to the county government, according to Weber County Comptroller Scott Parke in the clerk/auditor’s office.

Last year, Weber County received $327,407 from security surcharges, generated from traffic violations — a 21 percent increase from 2016, according to data provided by Parke.

The ticket revenue Weber County received, “is recorded in the jail’s operating budget and is used to offset the cost of providing security to the courts,” Parke said. While the jail is part of the sheriff’s department, the money isn’t used to directly benefit law enforcement.

A chart below shows how the amount of ticket revenue and numbers of citations have changed over the past four years. Hover or click to get exact numbers.

As the Standard-Examiner previously reported, there isn’t a quota system in the sheriff’s office, and the number of citations is not associated with the deputies’ wages.

“We do have a recommended standard of one citation per shift, but it is dependent on their workload, the areas in which they work and by what we are trying to accomplish – the standard is flexible,” according to the statement from the sheriff’s office.

RELATED: Traffic ticket quotas not part of policing strategy in N. Utah, officers say

There is a work performance assessment system in place, too, Anderson said, which takes into account factors, including quality of written reports and number of calls handled.

“Self-initiated activities” — deputies taking action while on patrol versus being dispatched by a 911 call — play a big part in the assessment. Those activities might include interacting with the community or making traffic stops.

But it’s not a “pay for performance” program, meaning the evaluation statistics do not have a direct impact on wages. The sheriff’s department doesn’t do bonuses either, Anderson said.

“I wish we had them (bonuses) but we couldn’t afford it,” he said.

An analysis of Weber County patrol deputies’ wages shows they made a median pay of roughly $53,000 in 2017, a $6,000 increase from the year before, according to data obtained from transparent.utah.gov.

That wasn’t a result of doubling citations, but a wage raise across the board in the sheriff’s office as a market adjustment in January 2017, according to the chief deputy.

RELATED: Amid outcry, Weber commissioners approve 21 percent property tax increase

Hover or click on any point in the chart to see the median pay of the sheriff’s deputies each year.

The new emphasis on traffic enforcement in the county is not groundless.

RELATED: Data shows that Weber County has the worst drivers in Utah

The Standard-Examiner previously reported that Weber County consistently ranks among the worst in the state’s road safety ratings. Crashes killed 16 people on Weber County roads in 2017, the fourth highest in Utah.

“We will continue this for some time yet, as it takes a while to see if we will achieve the results we are looking for – primarily reductions in accidents and other law violations,” Anderson’s statement said.

Contact reporter Sheila Wang at 801-625-4252 or swang@standard.net. Follow her on Facebook @JournalistSheilaW or on Twitter @SheilaWang7.