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Mammoth Lakes Police Chief Dan Watson got his back up this week when he learned an Orange County man had dropped off a document to the Mammoth Times claiming the town has deliberately set up â€śSeat Belt Traps.â€ť
â€śA law enforcement official parks his police car facing the stop sign waiting for a tourist coming from the L.A. area,â€ť wrote Barry H. Buckser, of Lake Forest.
â€śWhen the person stops for the stop sign, and since the police car is clearly visible, only a fool would not stop, the enforcement official waves him over and writes a ticket for failure to wear a seat belt â€“ presumably the most odorous of crimes in Mono County.â€ť
Watson was a bit flummoxed by the letter, but didnâ€™t write it off. Instead, he said he wrote back to the man, who apparently was cited for a seat belt violation at the intersection of S.R. 203 and U.S. 395 â€“ outside MLPDâ€™s jurisdiction â€“ while visiting on a fishing trip.
â€śMr. Buckser infers that tourists are specifically targeted because they arenâ€™t local residents and donâ€™t vote in elections,â€ť Watson said. â€śOfficers patrolling the highway or town donâ€™t know whoâ€™s driving the vehicle.
â€śWe do not want to discourage visitors. To the contrary, we welcome them.â€ś
Watson also responded to the manâ€™s assertion that writing traffic citations helps the townâ€™s revenue, but he swatted that argument aside.
â€śThis is a common complaint law enforcement receives from people whoâ€™ve received a traffic citation,â€ť Watson wrote in an e-mail to the Times.
â€śWhat most people donâ€™t realize is that the majority of the cost of a citation goes to penalty assessments. Some of the funds go to the state, some to the county, some to the courts, and some to the citing agency.
â€śIf this citation had been written by an MLPD officer, only a small portion would be returned to the town.â€ť