Short answer: About 5,000 in fiscal year 2017, less than half the number given out five years ago (not counting red light camera tickets)

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In West Hollywood, traffic enforcement is handled by the Sheriff Station’s Traffic Division. The division has two traffic motor deputies, seven traffic enforcement cars, one traffic detective, and a deputy who handles red light photo enforcement. They are supervised by a sergeant.


Number of citations excluding red light cameras

In fiscal year 2017 — July 2016 to June 2017 — deputies patrolling city streets wrote about 5,000 citations. That’s 14 tickets a day. It excludes tickets from red light cameras, which we’ll discuss separately.

Deputies wrote twice as many citations a few years ago. Over 10,000 citations were issued in FY2010 (excluding red light cameras). The number rose above 11,000 in FY2012. The number fell steadily in the following fiscal years, except for a small rebound in FY2016.

Sources: City of West Hollywood, semi-annual public safety reports to the City Council; our analysis.

We don’t know why the number dropped or whether there were any changes in law enforcement resources, priorities, or policies. Ideally, the drop indicates safer driving thanks to enforcement and education efforts.

We don’t know how many of the 5,000 tickets go to residents, but we suspect it’s a small percentage. The sheriff’s deputy who handles red light photo enforcement has estimated that only 5% of those violators are residents.


Number of citations compared to nearby cities

We wondered if the number of citations was unusual compared to nearby cities. We have data only for Culver City. The chart below compares West Hollywood to Culver City for calendar years 2012 through 2016. Red light camera tickets are excluded. The chart shows:

  • West Hollywood’s citation count was similar to Culver City’s at the beginning and end of the period
  • The number of citations dropped by roughly half in both cities, though it happened faster in West Hollywood
Notes: (1) Calendar years, not fiscal years. (2) The estimate for Culver City for 2017 is our extrapolation from 10 months of data. We don’t have that much 2017 data for West Hollywood, so we didn’t do a West Hollywood estimate. Sources: City of Culver City, police department monthly reports; City of West Hollywood; our analysis.

We tried to sharpen the comparison by adjusting for population and for how much driving is done in each city (vehicle miles traveled). We found:

  • West Hollywood’s 2016 citation rate per capita was similar to Culver City’s
  • West Hollywood’s 2016 citation rate per vehicle mile traveled was roughly 80% higher than Culver City’s

We also have some non-recent data from Los Angeles. LAPD issued half a million traffic citations in 2011. That’s a much lower citation rate than West Hollywood, either per capita or per vehicle mile traveled.


Speeding citations

Between 2010 and 2017, 14% of West Hollywood’s traffic citations (excluding red light cameras) were for speeding. That’s one in seven. The number declined at roughly the same rate as traffic citations as a whole. There were over 1,500 speeding tickets in FY2012 versus about 700 in FY2017. That’s two a day.

Sources: City of West Hollywood; our analysis.


Talking and texting citations

In most years, 20% to 25% of traffic citations (excluding red light cameras) were for talking or texting. However, in FY2015 and FY2016, the talking/texting share dropped to 12%. It returned to 23% in FY2017. Deputies wrote more than 1,100 citations for talking or texting that year.

Note: Texting citations are underestimated for FY2013 because we have a number only for half of the year. Sources: Same as above.

Texting didn’t make up a big part of the total until FY2017. That year, texting represented 15% of tickets, compared to 8% for talking. Back in FY2010, texting was 1% and talking was 20%.


Red light camera citations

West Hollywood uses cameras at selected intersections to catch drivers who run red lights. A deputy reviews the photos/videos and issues citations.

The number of citations declined in recent years, perhaps due to greater awareness among drivers. It dropped to zero for part of calendar year 2015, all of 2016, and part of 2017. The City was in the process of switching contractors, cameras, and intersections. The program started up again in 2017. The chart below shows the numbers by fiscal year.

Sources: Same as above.

Beverly Hills and Culver City also use red light cameras. Los Angeles shut theirs down. We have recent data only for Culver City. The chart below compares West Hollywood to Culver City for calendar years 2011 through 2016. The two cities diverged. The number of citations shrank in West Hollywood. It rose substantially in Culver City.

Sources: City of Culver City, police department monthly reports; City of West Hollywood; our analysis.


Revenue from citations

The cost of a traffic citation can be surprisingly high. For example, a $100 base fine can become a $490 penalty after state and county fees are added.

California cities receive a relatively small share of the total. A West Hollywood official estimated that the City gets $100 to $140 of a $490 penalty. The table below illustrates the math for another city. Of the $490 penalty, only $85 or 17% went to San Jose.

DISTRIBUTION OF REVENUE FROM ONE TRAFFIC CITATION, SAN JOSE, 2011

Source: City of San Jose, Office of the City Auditor, “Traffic Citation Revenue: Revenue Has Declined Over the Last Five Years and the City Continues to Receive a Small Share of the Revenue,” August, 2011.


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Short answer: About 5,000 in fiscal year 2017, less than half the number given out five years ago (not counting red light camera tickets)| In West Hollywood, traffic enforcement is handled by the Sheriff Station's Traffic Division. The division has two traffic motor deputies, seven traffic enforcement cars, one...