Business / Economy

COMMENTARY: The significance of the figure 2,223 and its relationship to Measure W and the city council

A conspiracy of silence with city officials and the court of justice to generate ill-gained revenue
The figure 2,223 represents the number of traffic stops by the Hollister Police Department in its 2015 report – an almost three-fold or 260 percent increase from 2010 (at 857 stops).

In contrast, the violent crime rate as reported by the HPD for the same period (2015) is down, as is the property crime rate, essentially establishing an overall drop in the crime rate of 10 percent in 2014 and 24 percent in 5 years.

On the other hand, a population increase in Hollister could conceivably explain the increase in the number of moving violations. However, and statistically speaking, the 260 percent increase in traffic stops cannot be directly attributed to a population growth of approximately 6 percent alone!

So what explains the dramatic increase in moving violations and subsequent issuance of tickets?

Normally, such an unusually highly number of traffic stops would raise eyebrows and prompt, at the very least, questions to be asked of the HPD by city politicians. Good governance and transparency would mandate an “oversight inquiry” into the unusually high number, not withstanding any conflicts of interest. Instead, the city council chooses to ignore the obvious.

Measure W, on the other hand, will allocate 67 percent of sales tax revenue for the next 20 years to public safety, with a disproportionate amount (32 percent) going to police – irrespective of their own official figures showing a meaningful drop in overall crime for the third straight year - “The number of reported crimes in Hollister dropped 10 percent between 2013 and 2014, continuing a half-decade trend that has seen crime drop 24 percent, according to the Hollister Police Department...”

The potential revenue generated from the HPD traffic stop policy and subsequent tickets issued (anywhere from $100-$1,000 per ticket), conservatively speaking, $223,000 to well over $2,223,000 annually.

Passage of Measure W, coupled with the existing HPD traffic stop revenue-raising policy, will generate $48,920,000 in additional revenue - just on moving violations alone. This does not take into consideration the added court cost (fines, fees, penalties and surcharges) and any legal representation.

In Ferguson, Missouri, the Ferguson Police Department unlawfully, dishonestly, and disproportionately targeted its elderly, poor, and black community for traffic stops and ticketing. Similar to Hollister, the city and the municipal court of Ferguson did not act as independent agencies safeguarding the rights of its citizens against the abusive “pattern and practice” of their police department. Moreover, as determined by the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the FPD’s unlawful enforcement practices, i.e. traffic stop, found Ferguson and the municipal court in out-right conspiracy to raise ill-gotten revenue.

More importantly for the upcoming local election, the official HPD figure of 2,223 traffic stops potentially represents a block of voters who would be more inclined to oppose this questionable policy and the long-term effects of Measure W, and the “conspiracy-of-silence” currently taking place with city officials and the court of justice to generate revenue.

This self-serving policy to fill the city and HPD coffers on the backs of the most vulnerable of our city: the elderly, poor, homeless, and increasingly Hollister’s unemployed (currently at 9.9 percent) is indefensible. As a whole, this is a major violation of the public trust. 

This Hollister version of a Ferguson-type revenue-generating scheme is unacceptable; together with anything associated with it!

See U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch's press conference on Ferguson Police and Municipal Court constitutional violations here.

Luis Burguillo

As a student of the media and journalism, I am interested in utilizing the medium in order to assure that the residents of the City of Hollister and San Benito County are alerted, informed and educated on the official actions of their elected officials who are sworn to preserve, protect and defend the US constitution and Bill of Rights. More importantly, their engagement in the political process will hold the leaders accountable for their actions/decisions and lead to an improved governance.