Fewer driving on suspended, revoked licenses : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Fewer driving on suspended, revoked licenses|
|Oswego lone exception to downward trend throughout county|
|by Matt Schury|
The number of people driving in Kendall County on a suspended or revoked license or no valid license has declined over the last four years.
Information provided by the Kendall County Sheriff's office as well as four municipal police departments in the county shows that most agencies saw a decrease in those figures.
The Village of Oswego was the only exception to the trend with just a 31.4 percent increase in people driving on suspended and revoked licenses between 2008 and 2011. During the same period there was an 8.5 percent decrease in people driving without a valid driver's license.
The City of Yorkville had the most dramatic decrease in violators with 215 drivers pulled over for driving on a suspended or revoked license in 2008 compared to just 101 in 2011, a decrease of 53 percent. Additionally the number of people driving with no valid license was down 67.9 percent since 2008 with 165 people recorded as violating that law compared to 53 drivers last year.
Montgomery had similar decreases with 186 people cited for driving on a suspended or revoked license last year, a 40.98 percent decrease from four years ago when 471 people were cited. The total number of people caught driving without a valid license by Montgomery police was down 52.7 percent over the four-year period from 264 in 2008 to 125 last year.
In unincorporated areas of Kendall County, Sheriff's deputies cited 419 people in 2008 and 278 last year for driving on a suspended or revoked license, a 33.7 percent decrease.
Meanwhile the number driving in Kendall County without a license varied over the last four years. In 2008 there were 282 people cited and in 2009 there were 344. The next two years the numbers increased 57.8 percent with 370 people stopped without a valid license in 2010 to 156 in 2011.
The City of Plano's police department reported 250 people driving without a license or a suspended or revoked license last year, the same amount they had four years ago.
Police officials can say exactly why the numbers are down recently.
Yorkville Police Chief Rich Hart did mention fewer traffic patrols are out on the street than there were four years ago.
He points out that a fully staffed police department for Yorkville would be 34 to 35 officers strong. Most of the positions have gone away through attrition, Hart noted.
"We don't have as much free time to do traffic like we used to," he said, adding that Yorkville has 25 full time officers--down from the 20 the city had in 2010.
Plano Police Chief Steve Eaves said something similar noting that his department is budgeted for 20 full time officers and one part time but is currently operating at 17 full time officers.
"I think our number would be higher if our staffing was higher," he said. "We have been still trying to replace some officers."
At one time he noted that Plano's police department had 23 full time officers and three part time officers. He adds that the first thing that usually falls off in tough budget times is traffic stops.
"I think if we had a few more patrol officers we would probably have higher numbers," he said.
Of course it could also be a statistical anomaly.
"There are years where there are more or less, I don't know that I would attribute anything specific to that," Kendall County Chief Deputy Scott Koster says.
Covering costs with $500
towing fee may also deter
One of the issues with arresting people for driving without a license or on an invalid license is the processing and paperwork involved.
"The municipalities don't get a lot of money on those. It's not like this is a moneymaking scheme for us--it's not. We don't cover manpower costs," Oswego Police Chief Dwight Baird said.
Municipalities have also passed a towing fee that allows officers who impound vehicles the ability to also fine the person $500. Police say they aren't sure the fine is deterring people but it is a way for them to recoup funding.
"We don't get a lot of money out of that and this is a way to help us recoup some of our labor costs," Baird said.
Driving on a suspended or revoked license is a class A misdemeanor, Koster explained, that results in booking the person and taking them to jail.
Koster adds that the processing takes up more time and effort than the fine.
"They're brought to the jail, booked, they have to post $100 bond-if it's a misdemeanor," he said.
He adds that driving on an expired license for less than six months is a petty offense but over that it is considered a class A misdemeanor.
Koster says people get their license taken away for a multitude of reasons.
"It's a list as long as my arm of the reasons and basically the bottom line is we don't really care with the exception of whether it is an aggravated offense and that makes it a felony," he said.
Hart agrees that making an arrest is time consuming.
"It's a lot more involved than just a police officer pulling somebody over. Quite frankly, I don't think it's fair to the taxpaying, law abiding citizens in our community that we arrest the same people a lot of times, multiple times."
Montgomery Police Chief Dan Meyers says his department sees many people driving on a suspended or revoked license because they failed to a pay a fine or ticket.
"If you get a speeding ticket and you don't go to court there's a warrant for your arrest and your license will be suspended also," he said.
Montgomery uses the $500 towing fine when a car is impounded, which he sees as a deterrent.
"They only way to try and deter that is to have a strong penalty and tow their vehicle," he said.
Eaves agrees with the custodial arrest fine and says Plano uses it.
"I do think that the more you hit them in the pocketbook the better," Eaves said.
As for the repeat offenders Hart mentioned, police say there really is no way to completely prevent someone from getting back behind the wheel of a car, once they have bonded out of jail.
"They just need to get to work, they're driving and they're just going to keep doing it. And those are the ones that we say, 'OK, if you're going to do it you're not going to do it in Oswego,'" Baird said. "I think the law is adequate to deal with it and people just decided they're going to do it and by gosh they're going to do it."
Hart echoes those comments.
"A lot of times they'll call me and say 'I'm going to lose my job because of this and I have to drive,'" he said. "Most people tend to forget the driving is a privilege not a right. That if you're going to drive on the state roads you have to be licensed."