JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Some might call it a catch 22.
In 2009, Florida lawmakers made traffic tickets more expensive, but it appears their plan to raise more revenue for the state has backfired.
Three years later, officers statewide are writing fewer tickets and some local officials say the economy is part of the reason why.
"Officers use discretion and especially in tough economic times," says Sgt. Catherine Payne, Community Affairs Coordinator for the St. John's County Sheriff's Office.
Payne says police are issuing more warnings instead of pricey tickets, using their own discretion to determine each individual's situation.
"We do not have any type of policy that we have to meet a quota. We are only required to respond to calls for service, criminal activity, and be proactive when issuing traffic tickets. Each situation is different, and we try to utilize additional resources to help offenders when they need it, like helping parents with no car seats get access to them through another agency."
But Action News has learned that effort could soon be reviewed.
The trust fund that helps pay for specialized and advanced police training statewide is now one-third what it used to be. A portion of traffic tickets and court fees help support that fund. Statewide, crime rates are dropping, and combined with fewer tickets, the fund has dwindled to its lowest point.
That means some advanced and specialized training for officers could be cut next year, and some worry that could affect crime rates in the future.
Payne says the cuts could be devastating in an ever evolving criminal world.
"It is crucial. Obviously training is very important to law enforcement because that translates into us being able to handle situations very effectively and efficiently."
In the past, the fund has provided agencies with as much as $110 per officer, but that will soon be reduced to just $40. Law enforcement agencies are now faced with identifying ways to make up the difference.
"I hope they look at every aspect of it," says W.L. Warner. He worries that police will cut additional officers to help pay for more training, or that he may pay the price if police start writing more tickets.
"I would need to know more about what kind of training is needed before I would want them to cut anything else. But issuing more tickets does concern me! I hope I'm not one of them."
Payne says it's too early to tell how the department will be effected, but says they are looking at every revenue option to keep training going, and public safety a priority.
"I don't think specifically that more tickets will be encouraged or issued. It's not as black and white as just writing a citation...I'm certain overall that public safety is not going to take a hit. We have to train so we'll figure it out."
JSO Undersheriff Dwain Senterfitt also issued the following statement Wednesday:
“The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is very concerned about the cuts to funding for officers’ advanced and specialized training, which was just announced. These cuts will not affect state mandated training, accreditation required training, nor policy training. But, historically the training center has also offered a variety of advanced and specialized training to officers in the region. We want officers to have the latest techniques, theories, tactical skill and information available, and these cuts will greatly limit those course offerings.”
A JSO spokesperson also notes that this funding affects regional training centers state wide, and that the Northeast Florida Criminal Justice Training Center serves many law enforcement agencies including, but not limited to, the JSO.