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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 âSeat Belt Traps.â
âA law enforcement official parks his police car facing the stop sign waiting for a tourist coming from the L.A. area,â wrote Barry H. Buckser, of Lake Forest.
âWhen 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
Watson was a bit flummoxed by the letter, but didnât 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 MLPDâs jurisdiction â while visiting on a fishing trip.
âMr. Buckser infers that tourists are specifically targeted because they arenât local residents and donât vote in elections,â Watson said. âOfficers patrolling the highway or town donât know whoâs driving the vehicle.
âWe do not want to discourage visitors. To the contrary, we welcome them.â
Watson also responded to the manâs assertion that writing traffic citations helps the townâs revenue, but he swatted that argument aside.
âThis is a common complaint law enforcement receives from people whoâve received a traffic citation,â Watson wrote in an e-mail to the Times.
âWhat most people donât 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.
âIf this citation had been written by an MLPD officer, only a small portion would be returned to the town.â