FOX13 INVESTIGATES: Dramatic drop in revenue from tickets making Memphis streets more dangerous?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A radical change by the Memphis Police Department (MPD) has led to a dramatic drop in revenue for the city.

But did the change also make our streets more dangerous?

FOX13′s Ernie Freeman looked at what happened after the police department decided to put the brakes on enforcing traffic violators in the city.

The sudden rise in aggressive, dangerous driving in Memphis did not bring with it a rise in revenue from officers ticketing the fast and the furious.

In fact, FOX13 Investigates pulled city financial records for the past four years and found that since 2019, revenue from traffic enforcement in Memphis is down, way down.

Records from the city’s Traffic Violations Bureau shows in the 2019 fiscal year, the city brought in more than $12 million in revenue.

For fiscal year 2022, more than $7 million.

A decline in revenue of more than $4.5 million.

MPD Col. Marcus Worthy, who walked into the traffic commander’s job four months ago, said the reason revenues fell is because the department took a cautious approach to traffic enforcement with the onset of COVID-19.

“The officers were more cautious in regard to approaching cars, making traffic stops,” he said.

While safer, the approach was costly for the city.

But as to the rise in reckless driving, Worthy said that happened because Memphis drivers were mimicking trends on social media from other cities.

“I just think that was something that the mentality of those individuals manifested itself with those individuals to the point where they think they can’t be stopped, they don’t want to stop, and we’re just going to have to stop them,” he said.

Time will tell on that.

But, as far as the drop in revenues from traffic enforcement, we wondered if things changed at all when the city hired a new police chief.

The short answer is no.

FOX13 Investigates looked at traffic enforcement revenue since new Chief CJ Davis took over in June of 2021.

In her first full month on the job, July of 2021, the city brought in $752,664 from traffic enforcement.

By June of this year, revenue was down to $476,295, the lowest amount in her first year.

Worthy said there is no correlation between the drop in traffic enforcement revenue and Davis’ approach to crime fighting.

“Since she’s been here, the chief has emphasized getting the crime down and however we can get the crime down, get the crime down,” Worthy said.

Part of the plan to get and keep crime down, said Worthy, is a renewed commitment to traffic enforcement.

But he said it’s not the department’s job to make the city money.

“I measure success when we have less fatalities, less critical, less hit and runs,” he said. “Money means nothing to me, it has nothing to do with me, I don’t care about it.”

It’s to make the city safer.