Despite its small stature on the map, Ringling is not without its crime activity. Recently, three burglaries have occurred in town — one at a church and another at the town's biggest employer, Dillon Environmental.
"There's nothing really holding them there; they could leave for Ardmore or some bigger city," says mayor Chancey Greer. "So we want to make sure our protection in Ringling is good enough for them and others to stay in the community."
To help combat crime in Ringling, and to update its struggling police department, city commissioners are considering allowing 30 percent of money brought in from tickets written to go directly to the police department.
For now, all money made from writing tickets goes to the city of Ringling, where it is put into the general budget and awaits distribution for the following fiscal year. Prior to police chief Scott Lang's hiring, on average, only two tickets per month were written. Since Lang was hired, that number has risen to almost 20 per month. While that increase seems like a huge one, it's still less than a ticket a day.
"If I sat out there and ran traffic all day, I could write you more than a couple tickets a day," Lang says. "But I'm the only full-time officer here, and I have every investigation in town and other matters to attend to."
The difference in ticket money has increased a lot since Lang took over. Ringling went from $600 per month from tickets to almost $4,000. Even if the city only takes 70 percent of that, it's still more than it was making off of ticket money when it received all the money.
With the proposed 30 percent pull, Greer says the police department hopes it can get that money right away instead of waiting for the next fiscal year to apply it to the department. The goal: being able to afford new equipment — cameras, safety equipment, microphones, etc. — better vehicles, training, education and the eventual hiring of another full-time officer.
"It's a lot of work being the only one doing this stuff," Lang says. "I have some reserves, but they're only part-time."
Lang says reserve officers typically do anything to avoid writing tickets, since writing one could result in taking a day away from their normal full-time job elsewhere for a court hearing, costing them more to write the ticket than many of the tickets for which they were actually written.
"When I was a reserve, I'd lose $200 a day for court hearings for tickets that weren't even for $180," Lang says. "It makes you not want to write them."
The addition of another full-time officer would cut Lang's load significantly, allowing someone else to handle some of the investigations. It would also allow more time for an officer to watch traffic.
"Police are in the crime prevention business," Lang says. "When we write tickets for speeding, it's to protect the members of the community and their property, not just because we wanted to write a ticket."
The idea is still developing. Greer says they based the 30 percent mark on other communities doing the same thing, which includes Jefferson County seat Waurika.
"One of our council members talked with Waurika's police chief, and they did this years ago," he says. "They were able to buy better technology, employ more officers, and none of that would have been possible without the little extra money they got."
Should the CPA approve the idea as suggested — receiving the 30 percent immediately — the city would like to move forward with the plan as soon as possible.
"We'll try it out, and if it works, great. If not, then we can always take it off the books," Greer says. "We're going to give it a trial run, though, and see if it helps the revenue for the town some."
Both Greer and Lang say the "incentive" from writing tickets won't play any part in future ticket writing.
"We don't want to be labeled as a speed trap or anything like that," Greer says. "[Lang] is fair, and he's not writing them for one or two [mph] over the speed limit.
"They won't be writing tickets because of this. They'll be writing them because they're doing their jobs."
The proposal will come up again pending the CPA's results, but Greer and Lang both hope to approve this idea and give the department a little breathing room soon.
"This is just as much about keeping the town safe as it is keeping us safe," Lang says. "Hopefully, we can handle everything and hire some help if this is approved."