Traffic Citations Increase under New Marmet Police Chief

By Sabella, Giuseppe | Sunday Gazette-Mail, December 31, 2017 | Go to article overview

Traffic Citations Increase under New Marmet Police Chief


Sabella, Giuseppe, Sunday Gazette-Mail


Whispers of Gauley Bridge and its infamous speed trap began to circulate in Marmet as traffic citations multiplied during the last year.

One business owner responded with an advertisement, offering discounts to customers who presented their traffic citation. A frequent visitor to Marmet began avoiding the town after she was cited for not properly displaying her handicap placard.

The town's projected revenue from fines, fees and court costs was more than 21 times higher for the current financial year than it was in the previous. It rose from $2,557 to an expected $55,000, according to the budget.

The increase followed a spike in moving and nonmoving traffic citations, along with growing fears among certain residents, visitors and business owners.

Starting in July 2016, the amount of citations began to double and quadruple the numbers from previous months.

Chief Gary Perdue took over the Marmet Police Department in June. He was later injured in a car wreck, and John Perrine is serving as the interim chief.

Perdue said he immediately told his officers to crack down on crime, regardless of its form.

"You overlook a child molester, rapist, drug dealer, crackhead, meth head, parking citations, DUI driver, driving suspended, revoked or whatever - write them a citation and tow the car, he said. "We're not going to come out here and let people get by with murder in front of us.

The past mayor, David Fontalbert, fired then-Chief Fred Maynor, citing a difference in philosophies. Fontalbert could not immediately be reached for comment.

Maynor said he joined the department in 1971. When he served as chief, the department issued an average of 18 citations in January, March and June 2016 - an estimate based on handwritten citation logs.

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Several months were missing from the town's response to a records request.

The number of citations rose to at about 42 when Perdue headed the department in July 2016, according to the handwritten logs.

Citations continued to rise until they hit a peak in March 2017. According to a monthly report from the department, police issued approximately 160 traffic citations.

Perdue said his efforts were meant to protect hardworking, law-abiding people.

"You stop them, and they've go three cases of beer on the back floor, he said, describing a hypothetical traffic stop. "They've got 15 tattoos. They've got piercings all over their body, and a bag of drugs and four cartons of cigarettes. Don't you think they should get the car legal? They've got money for all that.

Police cited one driver for an "antique vehicle travel restriction in September 2016, and an August citation read, "approaching emergency vehicle improperly.

However, according to the department's monthly reports, most citations are related to inspection stickers, invalid licenses or a lack of auto insurance.

Most citations were for nonmoving violations in 2017, the reports state.

Citations have since dropped in Marmet, with the department reporting about 18 last September. The reason is up for debate.

"Say me and you are police officers, Perdue said. "We're riding through town and see a license plate light out on a vehicle. I know that's picky, but that's how you get your DUIs, your drugs, driving suspended.

n n n

For better or worse, an increase in citations caught the attention of local business owners.

Harley Harrah, owner of The Best Hardware, ran a "Bluelight Boycott Special in the Gazette-Mail's Metro East insert.

The advertisement offered deals to customers who presented a Marmet traffic citation, but not citations for driving under the influence.

"We miss our friends and customers, it read. "We want them back!

The flood of citations, Harley said, caused customers to complain and eventually avoid the town. He not only saw less people in the store, but also on the streets. …

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