The Inquirer discovers cops don’t enforce traffic laws

I am not egotistical enough to think of this as my legacy, but I was tickled by the recent Inquirer 1 ½-page report on the plummeting number of traffic tickets being written by the Philadelphia Police Department.

Why would I be tickled? Because a decade ago I started an annual report on various violations — tickets written for automobiles, bicycles, and pedestrians. 

My primary purpose was to show the declining enforcement against lawless behavior on city streets. The lawlessness was obvious to anyone on the streets, plus the rising numbers of crashes.

A secondary purpose was to show that rampant illegal behavior by bicyclists was, and is, almost completely ignored by cops.

Is illegal bicycle behavior really important? Almost all cyclists ignore red lights, except when cross traffic makes it too dangerous. And most of them excuse it, despite that bikes are classified as vehicles under state law.

It is important because any violation of law generates disrespect for law. You may have noticed the growing number of motorized bicycles, and heavyweight motorcycles, too, that now ignore red lights.

Cars, too.

Like the “broken window” theory of governance, if you allow broken windows to send a message that no one cares, then you get squeegee guys who harass motorists, homeless people blocking doorways, graffiti, aggressive panhandling, and other behaviors that make the streets feel unsafe.

Same thing on the roads. Unchallenged bad behavior generates more bad behavior. 

It takes a toll on civic life.

Noting that “city police essentially stopped issuing traffic tickets,” an Inquirer editorial concluded that “the lack of enforcement has resulted in more crashes and deaths.”

To which I say, no shit, Sherlock.

Ten years before the Inquirer, I documented that in 2011, cops wrote 150,444 tickets to motorists, a number that had collapsed to 84,820 by 2017 (and down to 45,267 in 2023, the Inky reported.)

There were 80 tickets written to bicyclists in 2011, only 45 in 2017. Pedestrians got tickets 373 times in 2011, but up to 483 in 2017, the only category with an increase.

Cops were reluctant to tell me why the numbers had dropped through the floor. One police spokesman jokingly suggested that maybe Philadelphians were becoming safer drivers. 

There is no evidence of that, pretty much the opposite.

Cops are getting more active now because more citizens are complaining about reckless driving, according to Deputy Police Commissioner Michael Cram. 

And now we have speed cameras and red-light cameras that have reduced crashes by 36% on Roosevelt Boulevard, one of the nation’s most dangerous highways. Cameras also are coming to Broad Street, which sometimes seems like the Daytona International Speedway. 

Yes, I know some motorists have complaints about the cameras. Those motorists are speeders. 

Yes, I know some believe the cameras are just income producers. Well, sure they do, but the main benefit is getting speeders to slow down.

I know some regard that as an unconstitutional intrusion on their right to act like ayeholes, but that’s too damn bad.

Enforcement of the law results in safer, more predictable roads. 

I know “enforcement” is a trigger word for some of my progressive friends, but that’s also too damn bad. 

Safer roads aren’t authoritarian.

24 thoughts on “The Inquirer discovers cops don’t enforce traffic laws”

  1. A plan to print 3 days a week is being considered. They would publish on Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday. This would be the beginning of a total phase out of the ink version, with print going dark in 2 years. And circulation continues to drop.

  2. Totally agree with your points Stu. I’m weary of the “3 cars running a red light before I can walk cross” life Philly has become. I had one friend, who is against the cameras, state…”well these people won’t pay the fine anyway” as his debate point on the topic. My retort we even if it slows down half of the insane drivers, the world is a better place. I ponder: Is there any stat on how many people actually “do pay” traffic tickets in this city?

    1. Such a stat might be available through the parking authority. But that’s just parking, and non payers get the boot. Moving violations might be available through Traffic Court, but I am not sure. I believe if you don’t either appear in court or pay your fine, there can be an arrest warrant or a suspension of license.

      1. Yes, but I’ll bet that ‘Let ’em Loose Larry’ won’t prosecute moving violations. The Crumbbum won’t even prosecute DUI’s. You can thank Philly “progressives” for the laissez-Faire attitude towards traffic laws and lack of DAO enforcement.

  3. As long as the stupid people of this city keep electing democratic DA`s like Larry Krasner we will have this lawlessness. This is what the people voted for. Just like all the idiots who voted for president brain dead. You get what you vote for.

    1. In Daniel’s warped view, whenever something is wrong “it’s the Democrat’s fault!” Never any suggestions of solutions (and electing Republicans is NOT a solution unto itself, by any stretch, since they never seem to have an actual plan). Only the expression of grievances. Boo-hoo. This is no way to think or live.

      1. My view cannot be disputed. The Democratic DA’s and the democrats in general are destroying our country. You are so blinded by hate you can’t see it. Plus your stupid.

        1. POI: Bernard “Barney” Samuel (March 9, 1880 – January 12, 1954)[1] was a Republican politician who served as the 89th Mayor of Philadelphia from 1941 to 1952. He is to date the last Republican elected mayor of Philadelphia.

          1. A P.S. because I once researched whether he or Ed Rendell was the first Jewish mayor of Philadelphia. (And last.)
            Samuel was born Jewish but converted, to Episcopal, I believe. So he was a Christian when elected.

  4. Shortly after the passage of Isiah Thomas’s “Driving While Black” bill, as I read it was labeled, was passed by Council, there was a dramatic increase of dangerous driving, mostly but not entirely of blackened windowed, souped up, small fast cars. Motorcycles, too.

    On the drives, on many streets downtown; weaving, speeding, tailgating, gangs of several cars pulling into the oncoming lane to run red lights, no turn signals, much too fast, immature and devil-may-care driving, etc. A noticeable increase after the passage of that bill.

    That law has backfired badly by permitting a certain immunity to the dangerous drivers and backfired badly by discouraging our police from making traffic stops, thereby endangering everyone driving in Philadelphia.

    City Council: Please rescind that bill immediately to help make our streets safer again.

      1. Stu, Agree that fairness is always critical, but I have read that at most traffic stops the policeman has not seen the race, sex, or age of the driver, just the infraction that he witnessed. All of which made the reasoning behind Isiah Thomas’s bill curious from the start.
        Please rescind that bill, Council, and then publicly support the police to make all the stops that are fair and warranted.

  5. I’m in NJ and haven’t been anywhere in Phila except airport in years, but I remember some stupid decision to not enforce traffic laws a few years ago. Couldn’t imagine that turning out well.
    Also no loss if Inquirer only publishes some days.
    I’ve reduced to only Sunday print and the rest online. As they get more and more left, only the sports and comics are relevant any more.

  6. Defund the police protests were effective in their messaging to our police officers. With City Council, Mayor Kenny, DA Krasner and Police Commissioner Outlaw’s leadership our police officers felt betrayed and abandoned. To encourage more Motor Vehicle Code enforcement let the officers know they are supported and backed up when these violators become non-cooperative, aggressive, threatening and violent toward the officer who stopped them. The after event questioning by politicians to gain political points has to stop. Officers should have their Cameras on and record every car and bicycle violation. When recorded these violators should be issued tickets and notes made that violations were recorded. The city also needs the judicial system to follow up and make sure violators are held accountable. The driving equity law must be eliminated either by council action or the courts. At every accident scene officers should note if vehicle is currently inspected to ensure vehicle is road worthy. A quarterly report should be catalogued at accident scenes to determine the number of uninspected, unregistered vehicles that were involved in accidents in our city. The report should be sent to city council and the Philadelphia Bar Association. Hopefully the lawyers can hold council liable for the causive factors relating to these accidents and injuries caused by unsafe vehicles.

  7. Send Aloysius’ comment above to City Council and let’s hope we get some positive action! I know the next comment will be “Dream on Joe”!

  8. The only columnist worth reading in the Stinquirer is Trudy Rubin. I stopped reading Wendy Ruderman after the hatchet-job she did on Penn student & Rhodes scholarship awardee Mackenzie Fierceton (at the behest of her husband, Stinquirer VP and editor Gabriel Escobar). Ralph Cipriano (The Big Trial) wrote a good article about it. I believe Ms. Ruderman never apologized for her hit piece.
    BTW, I see cars making right turns on red when doing that is not allowed (No Right Turn on Red signs).

  9. The Parking Authority’s ticket enforcement officers are very active but they do not issue moving violationis.

  10. Kenney started the downfall of car stops, you can;t stop for a variety of voilations, and until the Police get back the power to enforce again, the problem will remain. Writing tickets just for being an asshole, finds many hidden crimes in this city.

  11. All we really need is an approach used by NYPD Officer Joshua Vincek, who only needs a scooter and a ticket book to enforce traffic laws.

  12. I effing hate to even partly agree with Daniel, but he is partly right. Larry Krasner is the poster child for non- enforcement of laws he doesn’t agree with. But, Peckerwood Danny doesn’t understand that it’s Republicans who deleted federal funds to help support police; it’s Repubs🤡🤡🤡who want to defund the DOJ & gut the FBI.And it’s greedy Repubs who want to defund the IRS so they don’t have the resources to audit corporations & the rich.

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