There is an English term illustrating the situation where the police conspired to collect fines by intentionally capturing on a security camera speeding vehicles passing through an area that few people know is readily subject to speeding if not paid extra attention to.

Can someone please help me out here? Any contributing response would be greatly appreciated.

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    In the USA at least it is known as a speed trap. The term and the thing predate the use of digital cameras, however: a police car lurking behind a billboard was the old cartoon stereotype of the thing. Dec 19, 2016 at 14:11
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    I think that speed trap may be the closest to your request. Although it is not a perfect fit, because your definition is very detailed, it is the closest fit I can think of.
    – Hank
    Dec 19, 2016 at 14:14
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    Are you looking for an English term generally or a specifically American one? (as all the current answers are (mostly)) Dec 20, 2016 at 12:05

3 Answers 3


A speed trap may be what you're looking for.

From that Wikipedia link:

Methods used include roadside speed traps set up and operated by the police and automated roadside 'speed camera' systems

Hence a mobile operation is a speed trap, as opposed to a fixed speed camera.

The article also states that:

Groups such as the National Motorists Association define speed trap more narrowly as a place where "traffic enforcement is focused on extracting revenue from drivers instead of improving safety".

This appears to be the exact use you want, although it possibly only applies in American English (a US group is used as the example). Wikipedia states that it is only "some groups" who use this definition, but it does seem to have fairly widespread usage in the US, as shown by this thread from the officer.com forums (thanks to @H.R.Rambler for the link).

For British English there are plenty of UK google hits for cash cow speed trap, where a cash cow is (via Wikipedia):

a business venture that generates a steady return of profits that far exceed the outlay of cash required to acquire or start it

I would say that the meaning of this would be well understood, but it's not exactly a common phrase. Plus it's a bit clunky. Plus lots of the google hits are about fixed speed cameras, rather than mobile speed traps.

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    It's a mistake to think that it's only "Some Groups". In the US Multiple states have a codified definition of what counts as a speed "trap". As such there are obviously conflicting meanings. Here's an interesting conversation that has discussion of the idiomatic usages of speed trap: forum.officer.com/forum/public-forums/ask-a-cop/… For myself personally I describe a "speed trap" as cops hiding in a way that crosses the line from hunting to poaching. Dec 19, 2016 at 17:58
  • @H.R.Rambler - Thanks, I've incorporated that into the answer.
    – AndyT
    Dec 20, 2016 at 10:55
  • Very nice of you to call that out specifically. Thank you. Dec 21, 2016 at 12:49

Perhaps they are just lying in wait.

TFD (idioms):

lie in wait (for someone or something)
Fig. to stay still and hidden, waiting for someone or something.
Bob was lying in wait for Anne so he could scold her about something.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


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