The tiny borough of Helmetta, New Jersey in southern Middlesex County has recently come under heat for the ticketing practices of its police department and six police officers, who allegedly have been targeting out-of-town residents for speeding tickets while turning a blind eye to Helmetta residents who speed. If true, the borough’s policy of issuing tickets based on residency constitutes a serious violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Talk of a speed trap in Helmetta that targets non-residents came about after the initiation of a whistleblower lawsuit by the former police director against the town’s mayor. The former director claims that Helmetta police were ordered by the mayor to issue s
peeding tickets to all out-of-town residents going at least 5 miles per hour over the speed limit, but to hand out only warnings to Helmetta residents, in order to raise revenue for the borough without upsetting resident-voters.
The allegations certainly seem to be supported by the numbers. Helmetta’s police department records report that Helmetta police handed out 222 speeding tickets between September of 2011 and March of 2013, with only two, or less than 1 percent, of those tickets being given to Helmetta residents.
Though the figures indicate a discrepancy, those familiar with Helmetta explain that the square-mile town with a population of around 2,000, no traffic lights, and no major roads other than County Road 615, or Main Street, has a tradition of strict traffic law enforcement that Helmetta residents are simply more aware of than out-of-towners. Other than the borough’s traffic statistics, evidence has yet to be found which corroborates the allegations, with all members of Helmetta’s police department denying any discriminatory policy against out-of-towners ever existed. Nevertheless, Helmetta’s questionable statistics are sure to lead to a more in-depth investigation, as well as a closer look at the ticketing practices of other small towns throughout the state.