30 November 2005

woodworth louisiana speed trap capital of the free world

**updated** thursday 18 january 2007
speedtrap.org links to this post see: News stories and Editorials about Speed Traps Listed by State or Province where applicable

kudos to rev scott a. callaghan for taking the time to write the local paper about this blight on central louisiana and louisiana as a whole. many years ago we received a speeding ticket from woodworth. friends and we were leaving the indian creek recreation area which unfortunately to access you must pass through woodworth. the woodworth fuzz busted us coming down a hill doing 27 mph in a 25. back then they took your license for safe keeping. we remember it wound up costing around $70 to get back.

Thanks a lot!

During October, I was in Alexandria volunteering with a internationally-acclaimed relief organization. I have fond memories of your city, its cafes, restaurants, hotels, and especially the people, who taught me what "Southern hospitality" means. I worked 16-hour days at the shelter hosted in the Rapides Parish Coliseum. Each day I worked side by side with officers from the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Department. They were friendly, professional, competent and courteous.

One evening the shelter manager asked me to provide transportation for other volunteers who were staying at the staff shelter in Woodworth. It was the first time I had been to Woodworth so I got lost several times. I turned the organization's well-marked van around and started back toward Woodworth. It was dusk and to avoid getting lost yet again I was paying close attention to the street signs and landmarks. A Woodworth police officer pulled me over and informed me I was slightly exceeding the speed limit and issued me a fine for $100. I tried to explain I was a volunteer, lost and distracted as I scanned the sides of the road for directions to the camp. My explanations fell on deaf ears.

Later that evening I discovered three other Red Cross volunteers had also been ticketed in Woodworth. A Rapides Parish Sheriff's Department officer overheard us commiserating and expressed his embarrassment and regret. He implied that Woodworth was an infamous speed trap and had a reputation for preying upon motorists as a form of revenue collection. Knowing my stint as a volunteer would end the next morning, he suggested I leave the speeding ticket with him and he would attempt to have the sheriff quash it. In the usual friendly and accommodating tone I had come to expect from the officers of the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Department, he told me his department would call me if they could not quash the ticket. I never received a call and assumed the matter was settled.

Recently I received notification that the Woodworth police had issued a warrant for my arrest. The letter informed me I could be arrested at my place of residence or employment by any peace officer of the state of Louisiana. Replete with two spelling errors, the letter suggested I could "avoid this embarrassment" by paying the fine which had now grown to $225. As I mulled over the letter, I concluded that it is not me that should be embarrassed. It is the Woodworth Police Department.

Regardless of the organization with which we volunteered, tens of thousand of warm-hearted Americans flocked to Louisiana to help Louisianans after Katrina. Many of us -- myself included -- gave up our annual vacation time and spent hundreds of our own dollars to offer a lending hand. We poured countless thousands of dollars into the local economies of towns where we served, and we felt good about our contribution to the rebuilding effort. I came back to my home in Indiana awash in the many heart felt "thank yous" I received from evacuees.

Now this, a warrant for my arrest! I have no intentions of paying the fine and will donate the money to the American Red Cross instead. Given there is a warrant for my arrest in the state of Louisiana, I will never be able to visit your great state again. This saddens me to no end. Thanks to the Woodworth Police Department my memories of my trip to Louisiana are now soiled. Thanks a lot.

The Rev. Scott A. Callaghan
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Originally published November 30, 2005
today wednesday 07 december 2005 the town talk printed another letter about "heartless" woodworth, louisiana:

Katrina victim ticketed

We evacuated to Alexandria the day before Hurricane Katrina. We were lucky and had good friends to give us a place to weather the storm. Instead of being able to call it a mini-vacation and head back home a couple of days later, we lost our home, its contents and our jobs.

Around Oct. 1, my wife had her first opportunity to work a day in Lafayette. We headed out to Lafayette at 5 a.m. Our friends told us it would be shorter to go to Woodworth and over to I-49, which we did. Not being familiar with the road, we drove slowly and watched for the signs. It was very dark. I watched for cars pulling out of a convenience store and continued along the road. I did not see a speed limit sign so I felt the speed limit was probably about 45 mph like similar roads in Louisiana. It seemed also to be a safe speed under the conditions. After another quarter mile, an officer spun around in the road and pulled me over.

He proceeded to tell me that I was going close to twice the posted speed. I explained I was trying to obey the speed and in fact I worked for the Orleans Parish Sheriff Office and always tried to obey the law. I also explained that I was driving my wife two hours to work, her only day of work in over a month. I asked him to please understand our situation and that I was trying to obey the law. He proceeded to tell me that "he" was not the one going twice the speed limit. At this point, my wife was crying and I wanted to go calm her. I took my license and the ticket and told the officer that he was heartless. As I was leaving, I noticed a 45 mph speed limit sign about 50 feet from my car.

My wife called our friend and asked him if there was anything he could do and he agreed to try. He called the mayor of Woodworth and explained our situation and that it was going to take all the money ($190) she would make for the month to pay the ticket. The mayor told him to get me to call him. When I got back from taking my wife to Lafayette to work, I called the mayor. Instead of really listening to my story, all I heard was (several times!) that he was helping people, too, and he had people staying with him. He told me that since I said his officer was heartless he could not help me. Obviously, he had reached the total number of people he could help and was not in the mood to help anyone else.

After I have had time to reflect on this, and after reading the letter written by the Red Cross volunteer, the Rev. Scott Callaghan, I have made some conclusions. First, I was correct when I said the officer was heartless. I am certain the mayor is heartless, and now I have to assume since the people elected him and keep voting him back in office, that they must also be heartless. It is pretty obvious to me now why a town like Alexandria flourishes and a town like Woodworth just stands still. I only hope I can repay them all -- Alexandria and our friends for their kindness and Woodworth for their heartless deeds.
Daryl Nichols, New Orleans

Originally published December 7, 2005
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