The north Florida town of Waldo has long had a reputation as a speed trap, and it’s no wonder, reports the Associated Press. A small segment of highway that runs through Waldo requires drivers to speed up and slow down six times: 65 mph becomes 55 mph; 55 becomes 45; then goes back to 55; then back down to 45; to 55 again and eventually, 35 mph. The American Automobile Association named the tiny town between Jacksonville and Gainesville one of only two “traffic traps” nationwide and posted an attention-getting billboard outside the limits of the town to warn drivers to slow down before entering.
Waldo faces a scandal involving allegations that the town victimizes motorists to turn a profit. Two police chiefs have been suspended, the police department has rebelled and the state is investigating possible wrongdoing. Police Chief Mike Szabo was suspended Aug. 12, apparently in response to an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into suspected improprieties in the way officers write tickets. Two weeks later at a city council meeting, a group of police officers said they had been ordered by Szabo to write at least 12 tickets per 12-hour shift or face repercussions. In 2013, Waldo’s seven police officers filed 11,603 traffic citations, according to records obtained by the Gainesville Sun. That compares with 25,461 for much larger Gainesville, which has 300 officers and 128,000 residents, including thousands of college students. The fines paid by Waldo motorists are a big money-maker; about half of the city’s annual budget, or $1 million, came from “court fines.”