Economy weighing on deputies roadside decisions

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - It's Friday night, and Deputy Seth Perrin is using his laser gun.

He pulls three people over.

He says all the drivers were going nearly 20 miles-per-hour over the speed limit of 45 on State Road 80 in suburban West Palm Beach.

But he didn't write any tickets. Instead, he gave written warnings.

In general he says a tough economy calls for a police force that understands.

"It's tough to write people tickets when they need that $281 to feed their family or keep the lights on or keep the water running," said Perrin.

Countywide since 2008, the Sun Sentinel says the number of traffic citations have dropped from around 431,000 to 369,000. That's a 14 percent decrease.

Is it because of a sympathetic police force, or fewer drivers on the road because of high gas prices, or maybe it's the drivers themselves?

Some motorists say they can't afford to get a speeding ticket.

"A ticket is a light bill or my rent money," said delivery driver Vince Armstrong.

But there are still troubling traffic indicators.

From 2010 to 2011, the Sun Sentinel found that drunk driving tickets are up seven percent.

That doesn't surprise Deputy Perrin, who is on the sheriff's DUI detail.

"A lot of people are saying they're out of work. They've been drinking more, trying to get out of the house away from domestic situations," said Perrin.

On DUI cases though, Perrin says he has no tolerance for people he finds driving under the influence.

Being a sheriff's deputy, in today's environment, is about judgment.

"We're not robots, we're not machines. We have hearts, we have lives, families. Just like anyone else. We also have a job to do, which is enforce the law," said Perrin.

The Sun Sentinel says that the ticket trend in Palm Beach County is following one statewide.

Tickets are down almost twenty percent across Florida.

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