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How municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty

By Radley Balko & Campaign Zero

Insight: Some of the towns in St. Louis County can derive 40 percent or more of their annual revenue from the petty fines and fees collected by their municipal courts. A majority of these fines are for traffic offenses, but they can also include fines for fare-hopping on MetroLink (St. Louis’s light rail system), loud music and other noise ordinance violations, zoning violations for uncut grass or unkempt property, violations of occupancy permit restrictions, trespassing, wearing “saggy pants,” business license violations and vague infractions such as “disturbing the peace” or “affray” that give police officers a great deal of discretion to look for other violations.

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A road map of part of St. Louis County, including I-70, Route 180 (St. Charles Rock Road), Route 115 (the Natural Bridge Road), and the I-170 bypass. Each numbered box represents a separate municipality. (Courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)

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