Over the last 75 years there have been several parking-ticket amnesty programs in the city of Youngstown. The most recent should be the last.
The Youngstown Clerk of Courts just conducted what could be described as a moderately successful amnesty program. It permitted those with unpaid parking tickets to pay the original $10 fine, and avoid the $20 late fees. Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown-Clark said her office collected $39,160 on 3,916 overdue tickets. The holders of those tickets saved nearly $80,000 in late fees and can now resolve to avoid getting tickets, or at least to paying promptly for those that are received.
Eight of the top 25 overdue-ticket holders paid up, including the top two. Brown-Clark said one paid $2,077 on a liability of $6,230 and another paid $1,787 on a total owed of $5,360.
That’s good, but it means 17 of the top 25 are still at large, along with several hundred others with lesser totals.
The city was owed about $300,000 in unpaid parking tickets that were at least 30 days old when the week-long amnesty began.
There haven’t been any good excuses for allowing scofflaws to amass hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of unpaid tickets for a long time.
It is the job of police to enforce the law — in this case by issuing parking tickets to violators. And they’ve done their job. It should have been the job of the city administration, the clerk of courts office and the municipal court judges to work together to see to it that the law was fully enforced and that the city got the money it was due.
No more excuses
Whatever excuses may have passed for valid in the 1930s or 1960s or 1980s no longer apply.
There are too many tools available now to facilitate law enforcement, starting with making sure that overdue tickets become part of the data base available to police officers when they make traffic stops. In addition to that, there are license plate scanners that can access that data base. There are boots that can be installed when a car is identified. There is the trusty tow truck, which would add hundreds of dollars to the scofflaw’s cost, thus providing another deterrent. License plates and drivers licenses can be flagged so that repeat offenders are denied renewal.
A good immediate step would be further publicity. The clerk’s office released the license numbers of some of the chief offenders who took advantage of the amnesty. Why not publicize the license plates of those who didn’t respond — along with their names?
Exposing a scofflaw to his or her professional peers and neighbors could be even more effective than the boot.
By June Brown-Clark will have more tools as she establishes a parking bureau and begins to exercise new enforcement powers defined by city council.
Whatever method is pursued to keep the city’s parking accounts up to date must be done quickly, consistently and in an ongoing fashion.
Every motorist who finds a ticket on his or her car should know to pay the $10 now, pay $30 in 30 days or face the possibility of seeing their car immobilized or towed.
Any plate that exceeds $100 in fines should set of alarms. Allowing anyone to rack up thousands of dollars in fines before being held to account makes a mockery of law enforcement.