After setting up illegal speed trap, this Arizona city is repaying drivers nearly $100K

Long Nguyen was pleasantly surprised when he got a check for about $250 from El Mirage in the mail last week.

“It was like a gift from Santa,” he said.

A note from the city gave a vague explanation for why he was getting the early Christmas gift. “This photo enforcement citation may have been issued improperly because of a procedural change at the Thompson Ranch photo enforcement location,” the letter read.

What really happened, according to documents and emails The Arizona Republic obtained through an Arizona Public Records Law request, was more than just a procedural change.

The city had, more than a decade earlier, set up an illegal speed trap in front of Thompson Ranch Elementary School on Thompson Ranch Road north of Grand Avenue. Then, years later, the city installed photo enforcement cameras in front of the school.

For a period of time from late 2016 to early 2017, the city issued citations on a stretch of the road where the speed limit dropped more than 10 mph, a violation of state law.