The number of traffic stops across Illinois has dropped by nearly 6 percent and the number of ticketed motorists has dipped about 11 percent, according to a published report Sunday.
The Chicago Tribune analyzed state data on traffic tickets from 2008 to 2010, the most recent years available. The drops occurred as traffic levels remained about even over the same time period.
Some of the biggest drops were reported by the Chicago Police Department. The agency stopped 38,000 fewer motorists, around 19 percent less, and ticketed 46,000, or 30 percent, fewer, according to the newspaper.
Authorities said there isn't a single explanation for the change.
Many believe that the poor economy and fewer officers could be part of the reason. Other experts said cameras in vehicles and redeploying officers to crash hot spots — which may reduce the number of crashes — are other possible explanations.
Chicago police spokeswoman Antoinette Ursitti declined to talk about the reasons behind the drops but said safety remains a priority.
"Every day, officers enforce all types of traffic offenses to ensure safe roadways for everyone," Ursitti told the Tribune.
Other police chiefs were quick to say a drop in police department manpower resulted in fewer stops. Lombard police Chief Ray Byrne, whose department lost five officers, reported a 21 percent drop in the number of stops.
"I think every police department has less officers on the street than two years ago, and that's going to have an effect," he said.
The drops surprised Ava George Stewart, who heads the traffic section for the Illinois State Bar Association. She said more in-vehicle cameras might deter officers from making less reasonable stops and more drivers are willing to fight tickets in court.
"It really defies logic because every year they put new and more traffic offenses on the books. You would think it would cause the numbers to go up," she said.
The Tribune reported that one major department defied both trends. Cook County sheriff's police stopped 41 percent more people and ticketed 45 percent more when comparing 2008 with 2010.
Sheriff's spokesman Frank Bilecki said the agency has maintained its manpower and expanding its patrols into other municipalities.
"Part of this might be holding some people accountable to their job descriptions and making sure we are doing what we are supposed to be doing — securing the streets of Cook County," Bilecki said.