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UPDATED: Problem Intersection: Oakland Avenue and MLK Drive

This corner is the site of regular stop sign stings, but one Southeast Atlanta resident asks if there's truly a problem or is the city just looking for a revenue stream?

When it comes to traffic infractions most things are black and white.

If the radar gun clocks you driving above the posted speed limit, then you're speeding.

Run a red light camera such as the one at the intersection of Boulevard and Freedom Parkway, it's pretty hard to refute photographic evidence.

But what constitutes running a stop sign? Or more specifically, how long should you stop at a stop sign and who determines that you've stopped long enough?

That's the question Ormewood Park resident Paul Schwartz is asking following two recent tickets he received in the last few months at the intersection of MLK Drive and Oakland Ave. — just outside the western entrance of the Oakland Cemetery.

Schwartz, who travels that intersection on his daily commute to his job downtown, says it's routinely the site of Atlanta police stings. He shared with East Atlanta Patch why he feels it's nothing more than what he calls a legalized "shakedown" and waste of police resources:

I've been twice victimized by this ridiculous sting operation where they are giving out tickets in large numbers for a "rolling stop" at the intersection of Oakland and MLK, by the west entrance to the cemetery. I would guess that this is mostly people commuting to downtown from East Atlanta, Ormewood Park and Grant Park.

After the first time I got a ticket a few months ago, which seemed outrageous enough because I felt that I stopped and there was no reason to pull me over, I've been very careful about stopping fully at this intersection because the sting is frequently in operation and after stopping fully today got a ticket anyway. I couldn't believe it. I go through this intersection every day on my way to work Downtown and can't believe they continue to regularly harass people like this.

There is nothing unsafe going on in the way people are driving. They appear to me to stop, and on multiple occasions they have a bunch of motorcycle cops stationed here handing out tickets in large numbers.  I have seen six to eight cars pulled over and getting tickets when passing sometimes.

This is not an intersection that warrants police attention; it is safe, slow-moving traffic and there is no justification for putting police resources here except to harass people and shake them down for money. It seems outrageous to me and a waste of police resources — and an abuse of police authority. Maybe they just need to raise funds but it seems they could actually pursue violations that relate in some way to public safety.

I can't get a response out of the city and sent a new letter today to the Mayor's and Police Chief's offices.

When I have asked the officers who are deciding to use police resources this way they say "the Mayor" or "Chief Turner." I'm sure I am not the only one angered by this.

Schwartz wrote a letter dated Oct. 26 to Andrea Boone, director of the Mayor's Office of Constituent Services to express his frustration.

In the letter, which also was sent to Mayor Kasim Reed, Carla Smith and Atlanta Police Department Chief George N. Turner, he wrote the city has plenty of intersections where such police operations are warranted as well as parts of the city where law enforcement is needed to address more pressing public safety issues.

"Honestly, it makes me want to move out of Atlanta," Schwartz wrote in his two-page letter to Boone. "I love this city but public safety issues are a reason I think about leaving — I want to feel that my family is safe in our neighborhood.

"And now, instead of being comforted by a police presence to address the serious crime issues that we face, I feel only resentful that police resources are being directed to harass citizens, perhaps in a cynical effort to address budgetary constraints."

Patch reached out Smith, APD and the mayor's office for comment.

"I have forwarded this note to the deputy chief over our Special Operations Division, as well as Chief Turner's chief of staff, for their review," APD spokesman Carlos Campos told Patch.

"We certainly don't want our citizens to feel harassed by our traffic safety operations and enforcement."

Have you ever received a ticket for a rolling stop that you felt was unjustly given? Where was it? On the flip side, are there intersections where rolling stops are a problem that need more police attention? How long is long enough to stop at a stop sign?

David Williams October 31, 2012 at 02:29 PM
What is realkly irritating about this is to see police officers routinely doing rolling stops. I got a ticket in Lake Craire a few years ago. I came through the same stop sign a few weeks later following two police cars. Neither of them came even close to the rolling stop for which I got the ticket. I continued to follow them to their "emergency" at Fellini's Pizza on McLendon. I do believe these stop sign stings are for revenue enhancement and not public safety. Police officers should be the paragon of driver safety: the example we should all try to emulate.
Beth H October 31, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I would think they would put police there if there have been complaints or a lot of accidents. I'd LOVE to see an officer stationed at Boulevard & Woodward on weekday mornings. I have to make a left from Woodward onto Boulevard going toward I-20. There are routinely people who use the oncoming lane of Boulevard as a left turn lane to get to Woodward. I can't count the times I've almost been T-boned by someone too lazy to wait until it was safe to turn.
J Grouchy October 31, 2012 at 03:27 PM
I agree this is an issue. If you get a ticket here, you'll soon discover the OTHER dark secret the city has in handling this issue...what amounts to city-sanctioned municipal court bribery. Pre-trial Intervention (PTI) is a fancy name for a long, endless line of people being asked to pay a "participation fee"...not for any sort of defensive driving course or lecture...but just to make the charge disappear. Poof...no points, no insurance hit...just gone. Wow...$150 in the city's pocket. What a deal! Truth is, this intersection only sees any real traffic coming northbound off Memorial (and possibly on weekends when an event is taking place in or around the cemetery). Sure, there are stop signs and yes, there is a reason it is a four-way stop...but I agree with the author here. It's a shakedown pure and simple. There are dozens of more dangerous intersections they could be monitoring for this violation...but they choose this one because it is certain to generate the most money for them for the simple reason it is the intersection least likely to worry drivers enough to make a complete stop at. Any other busy four-way stop would probably only pull in a single digit percentage of the number of tickets this one does...so it's pretty clear where the City's priorities lie.
Beth H October 31, 2012 at 04:35 PM
They used to do stings a lot on Freedom Parkway, too. Because it is 35 but so easy to go over. I got a ticket there & the judge was throwing out all the speeding tickets issued on Freedom Parkway. He said it was built like an expressway & of coarse people are going to drive on it as such. Until that was changed he was going to throw out any speeding tickets on that stretch of road.Just a money maker for the city.
J Grouchy November 02, 2012 at 12:55 PM
I was right behind a school bus that coasted through that stop this morning...

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