St. Ann is a small city of less than 13,000 people that patrols a stretch of Interstate 70 near St. Louis’s Lambert Field. The sight of police cars lined up on this stretch of I70 is normal one for most St. Louis residents. According to reports, St. Ann has been able to replace a large amount of lost sales tax revenue with its traffic enforcement efforts. St. Ann lost the sales tax revenue when a mall shut down. In 2014, St. Ann issued approximately 8,000 traffic citations. The revenue from the municipal court rose to $2.6 million that year, more than doubling the amount collected in 2009.
Better Together, an organization critical of the St. Louis Area Municipal System, lists that St. Ann collected 37.47% of its revenue from municipal court fines and fees. This number is disputed by St. Ann officials. Prior to the recent law going into effect in late summer of 2015, municipalities were capped at 30% of their operating budget being obtained from traffic citations. Now that cap is at 12.5%.
St. Ann Police Chief Aaron Jimenez acted proactively as the new cap was going to drastically cut his budget. He laid off 10 officers. Mayor Michael Corcoran thinks differently. He stated St. Ann is “on solid ground” but other St. Louis area municipalities will be drastically impacted. The Mayor did acknowledge that the traffic officers were paying their own salaries with the revenue collected on I70. Chief Jimenez stated he doesn’t care where the money goes and that will continue to enforce the speed limits in the same fashion.
St. Ann also had a practice of arresting individuals for minor traffic offenses and requiring them to post a bail amount to be released. Several public action groups sued the city for violating the constitution. As a result of a court order St. Ann is required to release those arrested with no bond or on their own recognizance. There is an exception if the person is able to see the judge within 24 hours. Chief Jimenez stated that the jail is down to three or four prisoners at a time. This is in direct contrast to the previous 50 or 60 inmates St. Ann typically held, often for neighboring municipalities. This holding system also brought in over a quarter million dollars each year.
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