HAMTRAMCK, Mich. (WXYZ) - The 7 Action News Investigators have heard a lot of complaints from viewers lately about speed traps in one metro Detroit town. Drivers say some speed limits in Hamtramck are ridiculously low and they say the police are writing a lot of tickets just to raise money.
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The Investigators went out with an undercover camera to investigate in Hamtramck.
The biggest complaint is on the I-75 Service Drive in Hamtramck where viewers told us police have been cleaning up on unsuspecting drivers. We were in our undercover van for about 30 minutes watching one day recently and got three tickets on tape. It was bang, bang, bang.
That’s no surprise when you consider that the speed limit is 25 miles-an-hour. Twenty-five-miles-an-hour on a freeway service drive? That's like shooting fish in a barrel and people have complained to 7 Action News that it seems like a set-up.
“I think they're doing it just for the money, just for the money," said Gary Payne, one of the drivers we caught on tape getting written-up for speeding.
Geraldine Frutell also got nabbed for speeding on the service drive. She said it was her first moving violation in 40 years.
"I think that the economy is all messed up these days, including the city or whatever, and they're just trying to get peoples’ money," Frutell said.
The Investigators spoke with Jim Walker, a member of the National Association of Motorists, a group that represents the driving public. Walker is an expert on speed limits and how they should be set. We showed him the stretch of the I-75 service drive in Hamtramck that has a 25 mile-an-hour limit and asked him if it’s fair.
“Of course not,” Walker said. “Traffic laws and traffic enforcement procedures should be based entirely on safety, never on revenue, and this, to me, looks like a revenue trap. Twenty-five is not logical and I would think it's probably technically not legal."
Lt. Gary Megge, who heads up the Traffic Services Division for the Michigan State Police, agrees. Megge took a 25 mile-an-hour spin down the Hamtramck service drive after 7 Action News called with questions about the speed limit.
"It didn't feel natural, it didn't feel reasonable, it didn't feel safe. I'm not aware of anything that would give that 25 any enforceability," Megge said.
In fact, Megge said, a low speed limit on a wide-open stretch of road like the I-75 service drive is potentially dangerous.
"You will increase incidents of tailgating, lane changes, frustrated driving. All of those actions can lead to a crash," Megge said.
According to Lt. Megge, 25 mile-an-hour limits are meant for narrow residential streets and densely-packed commercial strips, not two-or-three-lane freeway service drives with very few access points.
Megge says by state law, cities are supposed to do traffic studies to justify their speed limits.
Hamtramck hasn't done a study. And while the 25 mile-an-hour limit has been on the service drive for years, the buck stops right now with Bill Cooper, Hamtramck's city manager and acting Police Chief.
“We're getting a lot of complaints about your speed limits,” 7 Action News Investigator Scott Lewis told Cooper, catching him on the way into his office at city hall, after he failed to return a call to his office.
“I've heard that,” Cooper replied with a chuckle. “It happens from time to time."
Cooper insisted that Hamtramck sets its speed limits to keep people safe and they rely on the state and county to determine what the limits should be. But that’s not what the Michigan State Police told 7 Action News. The MSP said speed limits are set by the traffic engineer or the chief of police in each municipality.
The Investigators checked a number of freeway service drives in metro Detroit. We didn't find one with a 25 mile-an-hour limit like Hamtramck. And, the Michigan Department of Transportation told us they have no control over speeds on freeway service drives. MDOT said responsibility rests with the municipality, in this case, the city of Hamtramck.
Bill Cooper seemed surprised to hear that.
“We'll go ahead and take another look at it. You know, maybe 25 is a little slow," he said.
But it's not just the freeway service drive. Nearly every street in Hamtramck has a 25 mile-an-hour limit. Even an Industrial stretch of Holbrook and a wide section of Joseph Campau north of Caniff are set at 25.
7 Action News viewers complained that Hamtramck Police are writing tickets everywhere and raking in the money.
And here's what one reporter at the city’s local newspaper, The Hamtramck Review, called the city’s dirty little secret. In January of 2010, the paper reported that the police union cut a deal with the city manager. The police union offered to work overtime and guarantee $60,000 worth of tickets a month to avoid layoffs.
Cooper confirms the overtime ticket writing deal was made and is still in place, but he denied there was a