No one likes a speed trap, except maybe law enforcement agents. But according to the New York Times, one tiny town's ticketing streak has been so outrageous, so brazen, that it's infuriated even the county sheriff. As a result, the whole town could be obliterated -- literally.
It will not surprise some of you to learn that this has happened in Florida.*
The town in question is Hampton (population: 477), which lays claim to a slender, 420-yard slice of Route 301. That may not seem like much room to work -- a decent sprinter could run it in under a minute -- but from 2011 to 2012, Hampton's 17-member, semi-volunteer police force issued a staggering 12,698 tickets there, thanks to a sudden drop in the speed limit from 65 mph to 55 mph. The tickets generated roughly $420,000 in fines.
Yet somehow, the town of Hampton -- which had only three full-time workers before the growing "ticket-gate" scandal scared them off -- always operated in the red. Hampton doesn't even have an official mayor at the moment: the current one is in jail, awaiting trial for possessing and planning to distribute Oxycodone.
Fannie Flagg herself couldn't make this story any funnier or sadder or stranger.
A recent audit of Hampton's books -- those that weren't "lost in a swamp" -- turned up enough bizarre activity to make Honey Boo Boo's family look positively Osmond-like by comparison. Highlights of the audit (and other tidbits) include:
- Three city commissioners not being billed for water for 17 months
- A local nursing home not receiving a water bill for seven years
- Hampton's police chief holding regular church services at city hall
After all that, and after years of abusing travelers and locals alike (including Hampton's own state representative), the town is finally being investigated by the state attorney, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Bradford County Sheriff's Office. Simultaneously, there's movement afoot in the legislature that could wipe Hampton off the map.
The town now has 30 days to right its wrongs and present a solid plan for the future. If it fails, Florida state legislators are poised to dissolve the town and hand over its control to the county.
If you've never had the chance to visit Hampton yourself, check out the above video created by a citizen journalist, who shows how the town's police force does its work. Maybe this is what happened to Atlantis.
[h/t Bob McGarvey]
* I'm from Mississippi and live in Louisiana. I'm aware that I don't have much room to snark.