Fort Gibson. The next Hulbert of Speed Traps?
Posted in the Fort Gibson Forum
#1 Aug 18, 2013
I write this open letter to the City of Fort Gibson as a first step to bring to light some problems I see. I am at the same time considering pursuing some other options (like visiting the chamber of commerce and mayor's office, doing a direct mail campaign etc.). Anyhow, here is what I wrote and please give me your feedback positive or negative as I consider other options.(this is a draft and plan some changes)
I consider myself a safe driver. I have never received a speeding ticket in my life up to this point, but since moving to Oklahoma I been lucky enough to have been stopped multiple times driving pass Fort Gibson. I was not visiting the town but just passing by and in the last 6 months I have been stopped multiple times for various reasons, the latest for going 66 in a 55 area. Is this speed trap good for the city of Fort Gibson and good for its citizens? I make the argument that it is not.
The city of Fort Gibson is a very small city of only 4,100 citizens located in Muskogee and Cherokee counties and right off Highway 62. This is where the problem begins. The Fort Gibson city police have taken to sitting along HWY 62 picking off unaware travelers for a variety of traffic violations usually speeding. Why? Because they can. With multiple speed changes, a construction zone and a small stretch of the highway considered part of Fort Gibson this would be considered easy pickings for the city police.
6 Speed changes
As you exit the Muskogee Turnpike and head east on Highway 62 you are presented with a confusing mess of traffic signs, speed changes, minimum speeds, maximum speeds and on top of all that you have a stretch of construction zone. You start off at 65 MPH, then you begin to see signs telling you 55 MPH is coming, you hit 55 MPH and then it becomes 45 MPH, goes back up to 65 MPH, and as you near the traffic light which turns into Fort Gibson it slows back down to 55 MPH. You can only imagine what the weary traveler must be feeling by that point. So you make it pass all that and that same traveler enters the speed trap that Fort Gibson police have set 50 feet before the speed officially changes back to 65 MPH. The Fort Gibson City Police have a small stretch of Highway 62 that is considered within city limits and it is in that small stretch that city police have made it their habit to sit like sharks waiting in hiding for easy prey.
City Police doing the job of Highway Patrol?
One must ask themselves why it is that Fort Gibson’s city police are sitting on a short stretch of highway picking off drivers that are not even going into their city rather than patrolling streets and protecting their city residents?
Someone within the Fort Gibson police department has made the decision that it is their job to patrol that small stretch of highway. So if you wrongly presume that the highway speed is 65 right after the light and it is speed trap night well you are in bad luck because you are in for a speeding ticket. No mercy will be shown. Does not matter that driving 65 is still considered safe in that stretch because the driving conditions are exactly the same in the 55 section as it is in the 65 section the only difference is the actual posted speed. That is not what is important to the issuing officer. It is not safety that is at issue here it is a reason to make a stop to see what else he may find. Yes, that is exactly what the officer who pulled me over said. He justified the stop and issuing of the citation because it allows him to catch people for other infractions or crimes. It is step one in catching bad guys. OK, so I thought great that is not me so be understanding and reasonable and just give me a warning, but no it was not to be so. Why? I say one must "follow the money".
#2 Aug 18, 2013
Why would the city police decide to do this? Well, it is a good way for a small city to make money. For those who have had the pleasure of having sat in the Fort Gibson court room there are hundreds of dollars being made by the minute on court day. And because there are only a few court days in Fort Gibson the officers will always be there to defend their tickets. About a 100 people will be packed like cattle in that room with one judge and it becomes painfully clear that what one must do is accept a guilty plea so the judge will “graciously” reduce the amount owed and/or make it so it comes off your record if you do not repeat the offense within 6 months. Who could resist such a deal? Well, a few people did the day I was present (I had overlooked paying the re newel on my drivers license) and everyone on the city’s side of business would stare at the defendant like these individuals were out of their minds.
Unfortunately for the driver who is trying to do the right thing (like not speeding), sometimes that is not good enough especially when driving by the wrong city (e.g. Fort Gibson).
Fort Gibson and cities like it must ask themselves if it is worth the negative press they receive when issuing so many tickets. Just look at Hulbert, OK and its local economy. It is a mess of a city with a horrible reputation. People from Tahlequah, OK and surrounding areas all say to avoid driving through Hulbert if you can avoid it. Is that the kind of reputation Fort Gibson wants to get? I would hope that the citizens of Fort Gibson, the chamber, and city officials think about this long and hard because with social media, Facebook , twitter and the internet available to individuals, living down a bad reputation can be near to impossible.
What is my goal in writing all this? Is it to get out of paying my $189 speeding ticket? No. I am ready and willing to pay that ticket (although I will appeal to the judges reasonable sensibilities) but it is to bring some sunshine to a problem that I see plaguing poor people and aggressive cities like Fort Gibson making a buck off the back of those least able to afford it. It was a sad day to sit in that court about 6 months ago. Most could not even pay the average $100 fees imposed for broken taillights, headlamps, speeding et al. They had to request a payment plan. I quickly could see from the makeup of the court room what was going on in this small town. It was an easy way for Fort Gibson to make money.
Yes, I broke the letter of the law as most in that room did but what has happened to the warning, the fix-it ticket, the giving someone the benefit of the doubt? I was not driving carelessly, not driving at a speed that was unsafe for the present driving conditions, but nonetheless it was 11 miles over the posted limit.
#3 Aug 18, 2013
No, in Fort Gibson what it seems from their aggressive speed traps that this is a way to raise city funds. I hope I am wrong about this but I do not see what else it could be. Why would a city police officer sit on a highway issuing speeding tickets when they know in about 100 feet it will be 65 MPH?
I also am writing this as a small business owner speaking to the business owners in Fort Gibson to consider the implications of this. I would not want my city where I do business in to have such a harsh reputation. As a small business owner who works hard at attracting new customers the last thing I would want is an overly aggressive police force scaring away potential customers. Local police must not only enforce the peace but also be understanding and kind to our visitors. There is a fine line between enforcing the law and become a police state and a bully of the law. We want to be a growing city not a shrinking one. It does not take much bad press to make a small city (Or even a big one. Can you say Detroit?) to go backwards and start to loose revenue and business because of over zealous law enforcement.
So Fort Gibson, city officials, local business owners, and residents, take this letter as a little sunshine that will hopefully expose some things you were not aware of or were overlooking. This aggressive policing by your local police is not good for your city, not good for business even though it may be good for your coffers (that is very temporary). You do not want to become the new Hulbert of speed traps. You do not want to become a city and a stretch of road to avoid. You do not want the state to start looking at you and wanting to do an audit to see how much of your local revenue is from citations. Many other cities have had to learn the hard way to curb their enthusiasm for writing too many citations. Do not become the next city. Do not become the poster child for overly aggressive speed traps. Thank you.
#5 Feb 11, 2017
I have to agree.. I also am a safe driver... No ticket in years but I've been stopped several times for ridiculous things.
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