Following recent columns on how Parkin police for years have been ticketing steady streams of motorists along U.S. 64, others responded with accounts of their own.
They told personal horror stories with the little eastern Arkansas community handing out dubious citations for charges such as "inattentive driving" or (even more ludicrous) having "dim taillights."
The city's fundraising practice (apparently underway for years) became far more than a frustrating inconvenience when those tickets cost motorists an average of well over $200 each. Some wrote to claim Earle police officers, just up the highway from Parkin, were engaged in similar practices. Just one big roadside rodeo along a primary east-west highway.
Then there's the notorious speed trap of Damascus, which has spent the past year without traffic enforcement powers after former Prosecutor Cody Hiland determined that city along U.S. 65 met the legal definition of a speed trap.
That has left the Faulkner and Van Buren county sheriffs and state police to patrol the steady stream of north and southbound traffic along the city's main street.
It's always a bad deal legally and morally when any town decides to in essence hijack innocent motorists on concocted charges.
The spiel from officers involved in these shakedowns is remarkably similar as they explain to victims that the supposed "good news" is that by paying the fine, the citation won't appear on their record. Once a person is ticketed, the die also has been cast when it comes to the driver's word against that of the officer who might just regularly share coffee with the local judge.
There's obviously a more creatively lucrative approach at work in various towns whose city fathers and police approve local ordinances to collect ever-increasing fines to benefit their cash-strapped communities.
For example, there are those "gotcha" local traffic ordinances in Parkin, a community of about 1,000 that Wikipedia says has lost about 600 residents since the 2010 census.
Bauxite, population about 450, also made the news recently by deciding to issue tickets for vehicle windows tinted beyond what's legally allowed. While we have a state window tinting law, I wonder how long this little community has been cracking down on tinted vehicle windows and how many other Arkansas towns have yet to board the bandwagon.
The Bauxite police chief conceded in one media report that tinted window stops have lately increased there. Any question why when one younger driver said she received a $380 ticket in Bauxite for hers?
Rather than known for our speed traps, I'm beginning to wonder if we are becoming widely viewed as more of a "speed/dim light/inattentive driving/window tint trap" kinda state. Here is what one reader wrote that pretty much summarizes such opinions.
"Good Morning. Just about all the small towns are the same but some [are] a lot worse than others. I got a ticket in Earle for speeding, I argued to no avail. [Marvell] is another horrible town. I have been stopped there four times, one ticket. All for speeding. I know the speed limit is 45 so I set my cruise control at 42 mph. The one ticket I got was originally for speeding but I negotiated it to a "no seat belt" ticket. Jacksonville, Sherwood and Maumelle can be added to the list. [North Little Rock] is borderline. Just stay out of the Remount Road area and the McCain area near JFK."
An irate driver exaggerating for effect? I'd agree with irate. But in light of what we've been seeing in the news over the past year, I'm not sure how exaggerated it is.
SpeedTrap.org keeps records of the most notorious reported speed traps in each state, based on public input. Here's how it reports our "10 Worst Arkansas Speed Trap Cities": Little Rock, with four speed traps, ranks first. Bradley is second, followed by Damascus, Cherry Valley, Marianna, Greenwood, Parkin, Lamar, Fort Smith and Marvell.
The site also offers public comments about other suspect Arkansas cities such as Cash, Clinton, Earle, Centerton and a 20-mile, desolate straight stretch of two-lane Arkansas 530 (not the interstate) near Star City.
Rest assured, there are plenty more. If you have a story (or a topper), I'd like to hear it. These dishonest highway holdups need to stop.
A celebration benefiting the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance is scheduled for Sunday, 1 to 9 p.m., at Almost Famous Smokehouse and Grill, U.S. 64 East in Conway. There'll be music, food and fellowship, all for $10 that goes to assist the alliance and its ongoing legal efforts to protect the country' first national river.
Meanwhile, readers thankfully have responded toward protecting our national river. Alliance treasurer Ellen Corley told me as of last week she'd received donations totaling some $4,000. I only hope everyone who appreciates and enjoys the precious river will continue donating to this worthy cause by sending a contribution in any amount to Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, P.O. Box 101, Jasper, Ark. 72641.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial on 05/29/2018
Print Headline: Pull over, buddy