A St. Maries business owner, returning home with his wife after church services on a recent Sunday, was surprised when he saw a police car with flashing lights in his rear-view mirror.
“I was flabbergasted. I had no idea why he was pulling me over,” he said.
The officer told him he had not stopped at the intersection.
“He told me that my wheels were still turning as I came through the intersection, which tells me I came pretty close to a full stop,” the motorist said.
The business-owner explained that he drives through the same intersection every day, is always careful and has never had an issue before that recent Sunday morning.
“I have been through that intersection hundreds of times and am always very careful,” he said. “For whatever reason, I got stopped that day.”
As it turns out, he is not alone.
There has been a significant increase in the number of citations issued to drivers in St. Maries over the last month. In September, deputies issued 25 traffic citations in St. Maries. That compares to just 8 in August and 3 in July.
Sources told the Gazette Record that the change in traffic enforcement came after Mayor Tom Carver met with the sheriff’s department. Sources said the mayor asked for increased traffic enforcement.
Mayor Carver said that did not happen, but declined to comment further.
“I am not going to comment on that,” he said.
Sheriff Dave Resser said there was no discussion about citations, adding that the mayor has “no control over the deputies.”
The big jump in traffic stops comes on the heels of discussions between the city and the sheriff about law enforcement. The city pays the county to provide law enforcement and Mayor Carver has recently questioned whether the city was getting the coverage from the sheriff’s office for which it paid.
During those discussions, Mayor Carver cited the drop in the number of citations issues in the city compared to when St. Maries operated its own police department.
Both Mayor Carver and Sheriff Resser say those discussions did not prompt the surge in the number of citations being issued.
There is, however, a considerable change: As many tickets were issued last month than the previous five months combined.
About half of the citations issued in September were for stop sign violations. Eight of the tickets were for speeding. The remaining citations include seat belt violations, following-too-closely and lack of insurance or registration.
Ironically, a city employee driving a city vehicle was issued a $288 citation for speeding in a school zone.
The couple returning home from church? They were let off with a warning.
“The officer was very polite, very professional,” the motorist said. “But it did seem odd. It was Sunday morning. There was no traffic, the streets were clear.”