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“Hey, cops cops !” September 4, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in America, economics, policy, weird.

Over the last 3 days, 5 of us drove around 1400 miles covering states of Delaware, the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland. Throughout the journey, while one person drove, at least one other person was looking out for the cops (both undercover and er….”over-cover”), since we were generally cruising (only slightly) above speed limit. There was talk of being caught and fined etc. In North Carolina interstates, there were what appeared to be about ten ‘abandoned’ police cars for every police car with a cop at the wheel, perhaps just as a deterrent to the drivers. In the context of this experience, this study comes across as interesting –

They examined every warning and citation written by police officers in all of Massachusetts, excluding Boston, during a two-month period in 2001 — over 60,000 in all. Their conclusion wasn’t shocking to an economist: money matters, even in traffic violations. They found a statistical link between a town’s finances and the likelihood that its police officers would issue a speeding ticket. The details are a little sticky, but they show that tickets were issued more often in places that were short on cash, and that out-of-towners received tickets more often than drivers with local addresses.

They also found that out-of-state drivers were more likely to fined than within-state drivers, who were more likely to be fined than in-town drivers. This has got to do with police not wanting to piss off the locals 🙂

Of course, the fact that poorer counties/districts are more strict in enforcing rules and collecting fines is no secret, you hear it all the time. But its one thing to listen to speculations and anecdotes and quite another to see the numbers !!

Another word about the cops is in order. I like them, they are generally great to talk to and very polite. They are rather non-intrusive, although they are very much there – whether its a concert, open air movie screenings or the like. They even betray a sense of humor with strangers like us. As a result seeing them on the road causes no change in behavior, except of course, if you are on a highway behind the wheel. I think thats how it is for most law-abiding citizens whose only chance of being ‘caught red-handed’ is for speeding, thats the only time we ‘feel like criminals’. 😀

I have very different things to say about cops in Bangalore. Though the ones in small-town Manipal/Sirsi are slightly better.

P.S : I like the cartoon on that page as well. And the title of the article too.



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