New Rome, Ohio

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New Rome is an unincorporated community in eastern Prairie Township, Franklin County, Ohio, United States, located on the west side of the Columbus Metropolitan Area. It was originally incorporated as a village in 1947, occupying little more than a three-block stretch of West Broad Street (U.S. Route 40), and dissolved in 2004. The population was 60 at the 2000 census.

New Rome achieved infamy due to its traffic and speed trap, which received national media attention, and the internal corruption of its local government. In 2004, the village was ordered legally dissolved by a Franklin County Court of Common Pleas judge, and its residents, land and assets were made part of Prairie Township.

Contents

History

New Rome speed trap

New Rome police had systematically taken advantage of the village's sudden drop (from 45 mph to 35 mph) in posted speed along the busy thoroughfare of West Broad Street to pull over thousands of motorists, raising nearly $400,000 gross annually from speeding tickets but primarily vehicle citations including trivial offenses such as dusty taillights and improperly tinted windows. Nearly all of this money was funneled back into the police force, which almost exclusively dealt with traffic violations and so essentially existed to fund itself. The 60-resident village had as many as 14 policemen (all part-time), with the Village Council wanting more.[3]

Many local business owners complained that customers were being driven away by the village's reputation, and there were many reports of arbitrary and even abusive conduct at the hands of the New Rome police, who even ventured into surrounding jurisdictions to arrest people over unpaid traffic tickets.

The Ohio Department of Transportation eventually decided that New Rome's lower speed limit was inconsistent with state law guidelines. The New Rome police force itself was suspended by the village in 2003 when its chief resigned, shortly after the village's mayor's court was abolished by the state, and so the speed trap came to an end.

Theft and misuse of funds and equipment

New Rome also had longstanding problems with internal corruption. Several past New Rome officials (including a past clerk) were caught stealing thousands of dollars in public funds; others (including a past mayor) resigned after misuse of village credit cards came to light. $120,000 was stolen from New Rome over the course of a decade according to the Ohio State Auditor, who also concluded that the village's poor accounting practices made continuing theft likely. Mayor's court records were also reported to have been destroyed and falsified. A federal grant to the village in 1996 to fight purportedly rising burglaries, vandalism, and gang activity was instead used for traffic enforcement. In 2003, the New Rome police had their access to a State Highway Patrol driver identification database revoked because of misuse against the political rival of a council member.

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