Officers hand out tickets but most fines go unpaid

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Richmond County sheriff's Deputy Colleen Bowling patrols up and down Broad Street each weekday, handing out tickets to people trying to skirt the city's parking rules.

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Augusta Richmond County Sheriff's Deputy Colleen Bowling listens as a woman talks her way out of getting a parking ticket on Broad Street.  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Augusta Richmond County Sheriff's Deputy Colleen Bowling listens as a woman talks her way out of getting a parking ticket on Broad Street.

It's not difficult to spot violators -- usually people who park in yellow loading areas, fire zones or unmarked spaces. On a recent weekday, Deputy Bowling wrote at least five tickets in the span of about 15 minutes as she swept Broad Street and downtown side streets.

But once those tickets are written, there is a good chance they will never be paid. In 2009, 569 of 1,377 tickets -- about 41 percent -- were paid, according to Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Judy McMinn, whose record department processes parking tickets.

In 2008, about 38 percent of tickets, or 654 of 1,705 citations, were paid, Lt. McMinn said.

At $20 a ticket, that equals $37,180 in unpaid fines during the past two years.

"I'm sure some people know they can get away with not paying parking tickets," Deputy Bowling said. "There's absolutely nothing I can do with that."

Enforcing parking ticket payments is tricky, officials said. The city's Municipal Court, which had handled parking violations, was gradually eliminated after city and county government consolidation was enacted in 1996.

The Augusta-Richmond County code does not assign a court for contested tickets, providing little room for mediation. The ordinance states that violators who accumulate $45 worth of tickets or more can have their vehicles impounded by the sheriff's office, but that measure isn't used very often, Col. Gary Powell said.

"(Tickets) sit in files until they're paid," Lt. McMinn said. "They're not forwarded to anyone else."

City Administrator Fred Russell said the county has studied the issue but decided the financial benefit of setting up a mediation process likely wouldn't be worth the costs.

"We weren't really doing ourselves a whole lot of good financially," he said.

Given the current rate of fine collections, it might be time for officials to revisit the issue, Mr. Russell added.

It is unclear how much in fines has accumulated since consolidation. Lt. McMinn said her computerized records do not reach back that far.

But even if Augusta decided to pursue those who haven't paid, history suggests that would have little financial impact.

In 1995, during a budget crisis, officials tried to raise $300,000 by targeting violators who had not paid. Only $30,000 was collected by the end of 1996, even after the city sent letters threatening jail time for unpaid fines.

The Downtown Development Authority of Augusta has proposed a new parking system that would include meters and a new enforcement policy.

"When you don't have any enforcement mechanism in place, it's hard to give tickets," said Margaret Woodard, the executive director of the authority.

She said new sensors would help identify vehicles that have overstayed their meter limits. The plan, modeled after the system in Charlotte, N.C., also would include a mediation system. Unpaid tickets would be turned over to a collection agency, she said.

Changes to the downtown parking system are still in the discussion phase and would have to be approved by the Augusta Commission.

A new ordinance would be needed for the DDA's efforts to be more successful than those of the sheriff's office's, Lt. Powell said.

"Unless they establish a court for citations, it wouldn't be any different," he said.

Reach Erin Zureick at (706) 823-3217 or erin.zureick@augustachronicle.com.

PARKING TICKETS PAID

2009: 569 of 1,377 issued (41 percent)

2008: 654 of 1,705 issued (38 percent)

BY THE NUMBERS

41 percent of parking tickets paid in 2009, 569 of 1,377 issued

38 percent of parking tickets paid in 2008, 654 of 1,705 issued

$37,180 estimated unpaid parking fines from 2008 and 2009

Source: Richmond County Sheriff's Lt. Judy McMinn

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LancelotLink
0
Points
LancelotLink 01/18/10 - 03:46 am
0
0
Incredible! Knowing that

Incredible! Knowing that there is no mechanism for payment compliance, they (DDA) are still ready to press on with spending $1million for unenforceable meters. Can we just declare them insane and put them in Georgia Regional?

NEone
6
Points
NEone 01/18/10 - 04:26 am
0
0
Knowing that there is no

Knowing that there is no mechanism for payment compliance, I predict that the 41% compliance they currently have will drop significantly in the near future. Why pay it?

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 01/18/10 - 08:13 am
0
0
Reminds me of the five guys

Reminds me of the five guys who work at the Savannah River Site who come downtown each weekday morning and four find a parking spot on Broad Street & the 5th pick them up heading to work. They find their cars are safer on Broad Street than some empty parking lot and the parking is free. Car-pooling on Broad Street is a popular sport. These guys I understand do their shopping in Evans & North Augusta but do appreciate the free parking provided by the downtown merchants. At least they occasionally get a flyer stuck in their windshield, and are not worry about a parking ticket.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 01/18/10 - 08:20 am
0
0
Perhaps the DDA should

Perhaps the DDA should contract with a company who would "boot" over-stayed autos and collect the parking fine and a $25 to $50 service fee to "un-boot" a vehicle. That would motivate all-day parkers to find a more suitable place to store their car for the day.

Boston93
129
Points
Boston93 01/18/10 - 08:20 am
0
0
Change program Augusta. Or,

Change program Augusta. Or, take down the signs, remove yellow curbs, etc. We will save or make money that way. Or put a 30 day to to pay money and/or days in jail. You know who they are and if you have to go to their homes, quadruple the fine and add gas mileage. Won't be no difference with parking meters either. Money down the sewer by the taxpayers.

Boston93
129
Points
Boston93 01/18/10 - 08:22 am
0
0
I would be embarassed if I

I would be embarassed if I were part of the law enforcement group that can't enforce broken laws. Turn it over to POTUS and I'm sure he could handle the extra money from the system and send to Nebraska.

bettyboop
8
Points
bettyboop 01/18/10 - 08:22 am
0
0
Here would be money well

Here would be money well spent....sent some folks up to Philly PA and learn how they treat those who do not pay parking tickets...the city could make a fortune off of this.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 01/18/10 - 08:22 am
0
0
Booting is much better & less

Booting is much better & less expensive for collecting. The profits could help pay for a parking deck.

Riverman1
120504
Points
Riverman1 01/18/10 - 08:30 am
0
0
The officers wearing Mountie

The officers wearing Mountie hats seem out of place downtown. It reminds me of the old TV series with Dennis Weaver playing a New Mexico county deputy assigned to NYC who kept wearing his cowboy hat.

Riverman1
120504
Points
Riverman1 01/18/10 - 08:33 am
0
0
BettyBoop is right. Check out

BettyBoop is right. Check out Parking Wars on the A and E channel to see how it's done. We could use Regency Mall for the impoundment lot.

Boston93
129
Points
Boston93 01/18/10 - 08:36 am
0
0
Like the booting suggestion

Like the booting suggestion by Julian Osbon. I've seen this years ago in New Orleans and it appeared to work well if you want to ride like Clyde.

justus4
124
Points
justus4 01/18/10 - 08:38 am
0
0
The ticketing of vehicles
Unpublished

The ticketing of vehicles cannot be left up to officers on the beat because "we" know who will get all the tickets. The officers can't be trusted to be completely fair in their judgement. It's been proven time after time, that the entire system allows U know who to get away with violations.

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 01/18/10 - 08:40 am
0
0
I knew one idiot would

I knew one idiot would mention the President because we know this problem started when he was elected. Take a look at Philadelphia and New York system. It seems to work for them.

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 01/18/10 - 08:42 am
0
0
How in the hell will the

How in the hell will the officer know who to or not to give tickets to? This has to be your lamest attempt ever SMARTIE, APEX or whoever you are.

Riverman1
120504
Points
Riverman1 01/18/10 - 08:52 am
0
0
Who is y'all's favorite

Who is y'all's favorite parking enforcement officer on Parking Wars? I like the blonde. I don't like any of them at the impoundment place. They all have that glass between them and the public personality.

bettyboop
8
Points
bettyboop 01/18/10 - 08:58 am
0
0
Love that show....I like the

Love that show....I like the man and woman who work together on the boot truck....I like the blonde too....without that glass those guys would be dead..LOL

deekster
24
Points
deekster 01/18/10 - 09:02 am
0
0
Pull the tag or tow the

Pull the tag or tow the car!!!

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 01/18/10 - 09:19 am
0
0
Every year you have to get

Every year you have to get your tags renewed. How hard is it to hire someone to check the tickets against the list. The collected fines will pay for the person they hire to do it.

cricketflea
3
Points
cricketflea 01/18/10 - 09:21 am
0
0
GEEZ-----Very easy to solve

GEEZ-----Very easy to solve this problem!!! Just send the violators information to the county tax office. When the violator goes to purchase his/her tag for their vehicle, just add the parking ticket PLUS late fees and fines to the price of the tag! They don't pay their fine, they get no new tag with which to drive! Seems to me that not only would it get tickets paid, but you will not have to hire new people nor will you have to open a separate office in which to collect these parking tickets. Hmm, bet it won't happen though----it SAVES money.....

corgimom
51523
Points
corgimom 01/18/10 - 09:26 am
0
0
"The ticketing of vehicles

"The ticketing of vehicles cannot be left up to officers on the beat because "we" know who will get all the tickets." Bwaa-haa-haa-haa-haa! Now Just nuts is saying that an officer can determine the race of a driver by looking at his parked car. That'll become a new phrase- PWB- parking while black. You just can't make this stuff up.

curly123053
7235
Points
curly123053 01/18/10 - 09:26 am
0
0
The booting system works well

The booting system works well in Greenville SC. There is no getting out of that fine.

Runner46
0
Points
Runner46 01/18/10 - 09:28 am
0
0
Just like illegal

Just like illegal immigration, if the law is not enforced, people won't respect the law! Since vehicles have their registration renewed annually, there is no reason why those parking tickets cannot be paid at the same time.

Junket831
0
Points
Junket831 01/18/10 - 09:36 am
0
0
It is very hard to believe

It is very hard to believe that this is that difficult to enforce. As others have mentioned above, adding the boot and sharing information with the tag office are excellent ideas for enhancing compliance. The one problem with a boot is if you don't move the vehicle then it is still taking up a useful parking spot. I recommend towing the vehicle so you free up the spot.

LancelotLink
0
Points
LancelotLink 01/18/10 - 09:40 am
0
0
corgi @0826. Actually it's

corgi @0826. Actually it's very easy in many cases. Look for the chain license plate border, the rims/dubs and that "Crown" air freshener thing sitting on the rear window shelf. The "Obama '08" stickers help too.....

corgimom
51523
Points
corgimom 01/18/10 - 09:47 am
0
0
Lancelot, don't forget the

Lancelot, don't forget the $3,000 sound system on a $500 car.

NANF
4
Points
NANF 01/18/10 - 09:49 am
0
0
Oh Boo-Hoo. Just why are

Oh Boo-Hoo. Just why are tickets not paid??? Because just like most laws, they are not enforced. And why is that? Because there are a bunch of sorry people in charge of the offices. Police arrest folks, the law lets them go. They write tickets & the people don't have to pay them. Even the lowest on the food chain can figure this out.

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 01/18/10 - 09:52 am
0
0
It's time to refer the
Unpublished

It's time to refer the parking problem to an Atlanta law firm.

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 01/18/10 - 09:53 am
0
0
What about the beer cans and

What about the beer cans and rebel flag. Better yet, if you find a doggie dish up front and the wife's purse on the back seat, more than likely........

jamesj
0
Points
jamesj 01/18/10 - 10:00 am
0
0
The problem with sending the

The problem with sending the tickets to the tag office is, you must be allowed your day in court to defend yourself. They closed the court that handles these cases.

LancelotLink
0
Points
LancelotLink 01/18/10 - 10:02 am
0
0
ispy4u. didn't you read

ispy4u. didn't you read justus' comment? We do that so we DON'T get tickets according to his view of the word! And, actually I do agree with you on his actual race, I'm not sure about gender though. I will not hold his comments against black folks, that game was discovered long ago.

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