Welcome To Plymouth: Home To Vermont's Most Lucrative Speed Enforcement

Apr 24, 2018

Plymouth, Vermont, issued more than $415,620 in traffic ticket fines in 2017 — more than any other town in Vermont. Most tickets were issued in a 35-mile-per-hour zone on Route 100.  The state has not reviewed the speed limit there in 45 years.

  • Population: 619
  • Tickets issued: 2,352+
  • Total issued in traffic ticket fines: $415,620+
  • Total received in traffic ticket revenue in 2017: $220,969
  • Revenue to town per resident: $363 
  • Amount spent on general law enforcement duties by Windsor County's Sheriff's Department (FY17): $221,938

“There’s no ski mountain, no school, no store anymore, and nobody walks on the road,” said Plymouth resident Erica Bizaoui.

"Well in Plymouth, I think everybody has gotten pulled over there." — Erica Bizaoui, Plymouth resident

  

According to Amy Gamble, a longtime traffic operations engineer with the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the state’s traffic committee rarely raises speed limits.

If the state were to do so, it would likely be at the request of town officials. But, Gamble said, “the idea of raising the speed limit in front of peoples’ houses would present a challenge from a local political perspective.”

Many in Plymouth appreciate the low speed limit. 

“Vermont Route 100 has been neglected,” said Ralph Michael, chair of Plymouth’s select board.

He sees fast moving vehicles swerve to avoid potholes, and fears especially for bicyclists. The enforcement, Michael said, is designed to protect their lives.

"We actually have bicycle tours that go through there," Michael said. "You can’t even stay on the edge of the road with a car!"

Each year, more than 2,000 motorists pay fines after getting stopped in Plymouth. The state keeps a hefty cut, and sends the rest to the town. Last year, that was $220,969: almost exactly the sum the town spent on its contract with the Windsor County Sheriff’s Department.  Since 2013, the sheriff's contract increased by 205%, with ticket revenues increasing in tandem.

Sheriff Michael Chamberlain is entitled to takes home 5 percent of the contract, per state law. Last year, that was roughly $10,000. 

Town officials in Plymouth contract Chamberlain's department for 12 hours a day, seven days a week to provide both speed enforcement and regular patrols. Chamberlain explained that when his deputies finish their patrols, they enforce the speed limit on state highways. "I’m sure the towns aren’t going to want us to just come in and sit around, drive around for 12 hours and not do anything," Chamberlain said. 

Plymouth select board chair Ralph Michael has suggested otherwise.  "One of the things I have [mentioned to] them is we want you to go not spend all your time sitting on Route 100," he said. "We have in the past had a lot of break-ins, especially of hunting camps. Their presence has greatly reduced the amount of break-ins."

Explore the full investigation into the issuing of traffic tickets in Vermont here.

This report comes from VPR's investigative reporting desk. VPR is committed to investigative journalism as part of its mission of public service. Have a tip for the investigative reporting desk? Send an email to VPR reporter/editor Emily Corwin.