Starkville’s municipal court handled a record 13,703 cases in 2012, a number which reflects an almost 1,000 case increase from 2011, city documents show.
A report released Tuesday to the city’s audit and budget committee, a group comprised of Mayor Parker Wiseman and the entire seven-person board of aldermen, shows the court handled its largest load last year since 2000. Including 2012’s figure, the total of new court cases has only eclipsed the 13,000 mark twice this millennium.
Aldermen have held two departmental meetings in preparation of September’s fiscal year budget deadline. Department heads have submitted relatively flat budget projections for the year – the amounts requested do not reflect significant increases from their previous operating budgets. Police and fire department requests are expected to be presented in today’s 5:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall.
Misdemeanors increased by almost 600 from 2011 to 2012. Last year’s 1,836 cases reflect the highest reported total since 2007’s total of 1,757. Traffic citations also increased, Court Administrator Tony Rook’s report states, from 11,219 in 2011 to 11,461 last year.
Fines and assessments collected by the court are also trending upward. Last year, the court collected $1.73 million compared to $1.60 million in 2011. The city maintained $1.08 million of that budget while the remainder went to the state.
Starkville’s court reported 241 felonies in 2012, a number which increased by one from the previous year and reflects the third-lowest amount recorded since 2007. In 2009, the court reported 281 felonies, but that total dropped to 239 the following year.
Drunken driving arrests also dropped from 2011 to 2012. The court reported 502 DUI arrests in 2011, but the number dropped to 470 last year. The court has reported at least 400 DUI arrests each year since 2007. The six-year average for those arrests is 477, according to the report.
“Nothing significant has happened as far as crime patterns, but the spike in municipal court is primarily due to grants the police department has received to do things which do produce more consistent misdemeanors, areas like traffic and alcohol enforcement,” Starkville Police Chief David Lindley said. “Grants give us the ability to have overtime for special operations like DUI and roadblock details, and enforcement of minor-in-possession (of alcohol) laws.”
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch