Posted by: Kath Usitalo | January 12, 2011

River Rouge Speed Trap: You’re So Fine

Belanger Park, near where the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald was built

Thank goodness for trips to the dentist’s office. I get to catch up on celebrity gossip and other news from a wide range of current magazines I wouldn’t otherwise see.

The other day while waiting to be called in for a filling repair I picked up the January-February issue of dbusiness, Detroit’s bi-monthly business magazine.

Fine of the Times, a story by Norm Sinclair, caught my eye because I’d recently experienced the subject of his article: speed traps and an increase in traffic tickets being issued to prop up the treasuries of cash-strapped communities.

It happened in November while I was en route to Belanger Park in River Rouge to snap a few photos for my blog post on the ceremony for the anniversary of the sinking of the Great Lakes freighter the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Long story short, I got caught in a speed trap on Schaefer Highway in a spot where the limit shifts from 35 mph to 25 mph. Schaefer is a broad, busy, main vein—it’s called a highway—and I know I was traveling with, not faster than, the other vehicles. I was truly confused and stunned to see the police lights in my rear view mirror.

I’m not familiar with the area but apparently the spot near a railroad overpass is a well-known money-maker for the Downriver suburb of Detroit; check out the National Speed Trap Exchange for descriptions of the ambush M.O. dating to 2001.

The officer who issued my first traffic ticket advised me to call the city and set up a court appearance, and stated that if I showed up the ticket would probably be dismissed.

On December 1st I returned to the home of Zug Island for my 9 a.m. face-to-face with the judge.

After a quick stop to powder my nose (no lingering in a ladies room with a hole in the wall and a plugged sink half filled with murky water) I was directed to a large waiting room where 10 other lawbreakers were sitting in silence.

As the minutes ticked by more folks trickled in until there were two dozen of us anticipating our day in court. We were a dream team for a movie casting director in need of a diverse crop of extras: Middle aged white women, dreadlocked black man, mini-skirted 20 year old, silver haired black woman, young Middle Eastern men, 30-something Type A in a suit and tie, etc., etc., etc.

We started comparing notes and found that—with the exception of one woman who’d been nabbed for rolling through a stop sign—we all had been:
-pulled over by the same officer in the same spot outside of the city hall, between November 4 and 8
-nailed for going 6-11 miles over the posted speed
-caught on radar at the same short stretch, just before the railroad bridge
-written tickets with almost identical language
-told the same line about calling for a court appearance

The officer had not asked any of us for vehicle registration or proof of insurance, just our driver’s license.

There was outrage, there was frustration, there was talk of all of us uniting and standing up before the judge to fight this blatant fundraising scheme. Sure, we all admitted that we may have been going a few miles over the limit, but this was obviously a well-rehearsed routine, an unfair set-up, a clear case of entrapment, and…

…and then we were called individually to meet with the prosecutor to declare whether we wanted to argue the case before the judge with the risk of being slapped with a fine and adding two points to our driving record, or just pay the fine. The woman seemed annoyed when I asked the amount of the fine: $175.00.

Finally, we filed into the courtroom presided over by Judge Raymond Charron, who called each of us before him to confirm that we had chosen to cough up the dough and go away (or words to that effect).

In the end we all opted to pay the fine because none of us wanted the points added to our records.

Do the math: 24 offenders times $175 equals $4,200 in the coffer by 11 a.m. on just one Wednesday morning.

Hope they used some of that money on Drano for the ladies room sink.



  1. Yikes! Scary! Is this the way they make money? I am sorry you had to pay the fine. No fair. Doesn’t sound like you were going TOO fast. 😦

    • Truth be told, part of my right foot is made of lead….or rather USED to be.

      But that was (and is) an outrageous situation and a sorry source of revenue for that once-proud industrial city.

  2. This is an outrage. Why is it allowed to continue? Where are the local elected officials and state representatives?

  3. I just got trapped by rouge police who was hiding In pitch black behind a small hill, bush, and a pole, facing oncomung traffic who said I ran a stop sign

    • Sorry to see it’s still going on. They must REALLY need the money.

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