Either Boiseans have quickly become some of the safest drivers in the nation or Boise police officers have stopped handing out as many traffic citations--maybe a little of both. As a result, during Fiscal Year 2011, the City of Boise saw a 15 percent decline in fine collections, resulting in a revenue shortfall of approximately $320,000.
In a cash strapped economy, the sudden drop in traffic fine revenues triggered an analysis from the City of Boise's Office of Internal Audit. The review was defined by the period of October 2008 through January 2012. In particular, auditors drilled into the number of citations handed out by Boise Police Department and subsequent court actions. Among the findings in the audit:
• Average monthly fine revenues have declined from an average of $173,572 per month in FY 2010 to an average of $125,957 per month for the first four months of FY 2012, a 19 percent drop.
• The number of citations handed out by BPD between October 2008 and January 2012 dropped 22 percent.
• A review of the Fourth Judicial District Court, encompassing Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties, indicated a 29 percent drop in DUI citations, a 15 percent drop in motor vehicle violations, and a 13 percent drop in driving without privileges citations.
• The average fine per BPD citation was $120, holding steady with recent history.
The report, authored by Steven Rehn, Boise's director of Internal Audit, points to what he called a primary driver behind the shrinking court fine revenues: fewer citations being handed out by BPD. In fact, during FY 2011, citations dropped by as many as 1,000 per month.
"It is important to note that, during this time period, the number of police officers deployed primarily to duties involving the issuance of citations dropped from a high of 244 officers [in December 2009] to a low of 231 [in December 2011], representing a 5 percent reduction," wrote Rehn in his memo to city officials. "The total number of officers with citation-writing authority fell during this period from 296 to 285---a 3.72 percent reduction."
Rehn also concluded that the fine amounts, a changing mix of the population or even performance from third-party collectors, were not significant factors in the decline. Simply put, fewer officers are handing out fewer tickets, generating less revenue.