So far today, the most-read story on the Argus Leader website is this one, about an attempt to limit Sioux City’s ability to collect fines from South Dakota residents accused of speeding through the border city.
Some South Dakotans feel they’ve been targeted, and they’ve felt that way for a long time.
One reader had called me to talk about the cameras in October. He said he was pretty sure that the majority of the people caught speeding by Sioux City’s Interstate 29 cameras are from South Dakota.
It’s not an outlandish assumption. The speed limit is lower in Iowa. People in Iowa are accustomed to driving at Iowa speeds. South Dakotans are accustomed to driving at South Dakota speeds.
Unfortunately, I learned, there’s not a simple way to find out how many of the people who get the tickets are from South Dakota. Or Iowa. Or from anywhere else for that matter.
Shortly after my conversation with the driver in October, I sent the SCPD a public records request asking for a full list of all those cited by an automated camera, including their names and addresses and the location of the violations.
Shortly thereafter, I got a response from Lt. Mark Kirkpatrick.
He couldn’t really tell me what I wanted to know, and here’s why: First off, the department doesn’t track and compile the states to which the citations are sent. The city’s provider, Redflex traffic systems, maintains the addresses and violations.
The tickets are civil in nature, Kirkpatrick said, meaning they’d need to redact personally identifying information from each citation. Doing that would require officers to print out and scrub individual records, which the Lieutenant said they could do at a rate of 100 tickets per day.
With 39,000 tickets in 2012 alone, he wrote, we’d be looking at 3,000 hours of research at $40 an hour.
“As you can see the request, as made, is probably not a feasible option,” he wrote in October.
I called Kirkpatrick back today to see if there might be an easier way to find out where the money was coming from. Considering that an aide to Governor Daugaard accused Sioux City of targeting South Dakotans (a term the aide later said he wished he hadn’t used), it seems like a number relevant to the debate about data-sharing between state that’s been ignited by House Bill 1122.
There might be a way to get some raw number, I’m told, perhaps by looking at billing information. We’ll see what happens.