- Mar 12, 2014
Cops in Florida town of 477 wrote 12,700 tickets between 2011 and 2012
The New York Times has the story of Hampton, FL, the town of 477 that's in the crosshairs of the state after taking in $419,624 in fines between 2011 and 2012, yet still ending each year with a big ole minus sign in the city ledger.
"This town has struggled financially for years and years," said Jim Mitzel, the 50-year-old former mayor of the town. "But once we got [Route] 301, our chief went crazy." The town annexed the heavily patrolled route in the 1990s, installing a speed trap that dropped suddenly from 65 to 55 miles per hour. Naturally, the town makes an appearance on AAA's list of speed traps.
There have been allegations of misappropriation of city funds, improper use of city credit cards and other forms of corruption. Of course, there are accusations of nepotism, as well, with one family that's employed by the city extorting others thanks to the city's control of water.
According to the Times, the town's police force increased from one to 17, with the county sheriff saying he was unsure if any of the new "officers" had training on radar guns. "The last couple of years were the worst," Mitzel said. "[The police] went after people like fresh meat. They pulled out in front of semis." A particularly popular target were fans of the Florida Gators, who traversed Route 301 through Hampton when traveling between Jacksonville and Gainesville for football games.
"I have said it before: It's something out of a Southern Gothic novel. You can't make this stuff up," State Senator Rob Bradley, who represents Hampton, told the Times. "This situation went on for so long and the mismanagement was so deep, we have to seriously consider abolishing the government."
Unless the citizens can come up with a solution to the town's deep-seated problems with 30 days, dissolution looks to be the Hampton's final fate. Regardless of what's chosen, you'd probably be best to avoid this rural Florida town for the time being.