Speeding motorists fund 72% of Newsoms budget

Published 10:22 am Friday, September 7, 2012

Newsoms Police Chief Doug Davis runs radar on General Thomas Highway near Newsoms Volunteer Fire Department . Traffic fines from speeding motorists are expected to account for 72 percent of the town’s revenue in 2012-2013. -- Dale Liesch | Tidewater News

Graphic by Troy Cooper

NEWSOMS—Fines from speeding motorists are expected to fund 72 percent of Newsoms’ budget for 2012-13.

The anticipated $112,807 will be used to cover the cost of operating the town’s two-man police department, which includes full-time salaries, benefits for the chief, fuel costs and maintenance for vehicles. Prior to the chief being hired in January 2011, Newsoms had gone without any cops for a period of time.

According to the U.S. Census, Newsoms had 321 residents in 2010. Nearby Boykins had 564 and Courtland, 1,284; the latter two towns have one full-time police officer each.

Newsoms’ police officers write five to six times as many tickets as police in Courtland and Boykins. A majority of the 200 to 300 speeding tickets issued monthly are from motorists driving on General Thomas Highway, where the speed limit is 55 mph. Outside Newsoms, it drops to 45 mph and then to 35 mph for a one-mile stretch within the town limits.

“The state puts the signs up and we just enforce the law,” said Newsoms Police Chief Doug Davis said.

Newsoms Mayor Harvey Porter said cracking down on speeders on the portion of General Thomas Highway that goes through town is important because it’s 100 yards from Meherrin Elementary School.

“You can call it a speed trap, or whatever you want, but if it prevents a vehicle from hitting a school bus, then they’ve done what I want them to do,” he said.

Newsoms police spend about 80 percent of their time enforcing speed limits.

The town expects to make enough money for its $154,125 budget to pay for two officers this year.

“If revenues fall below a level to support both positions, one will be cut,” Porter said.

Police Chief Doug Davis said the second officer was added in June 2011 after a rash of burglaries.

“It allows for more coverage, so I’d say it’s been working out,” Porter said.

Former Suffolk Police Officer Jeff Reid, who was stopped in December for going 49 mph in the Newsoms 35-mph zone, said Davis was sitting along a curve just before the speed limit increases to 45 mph.

“This officer has located a vulnerable spot for drivers,” Reid said. “A change has to be made.”

Reid had his ticket reduced to improper equipment by Southampton County Circuit Judge William Savage. The $25 fine and court costs added up to $166, which was more than the original fine.

The 45-year-old, who travels a lot for his job with a car dealership, said Newsoms police have a “zero-tolerance policy.”

Davis said motorists are stopped if they drive 11 mph over the speed limit.