Houston to get more aggressive collecting outstanding red-light fines

April 20, 2012 2:53:10 AM PDT
Red light cameras may be a thing of the past, but the city of Houston is still looking for red-light runners to pay up.

If those drivers caught on camera don't pay their tickets, taxpayers could be on the hook for the $5 million it cost to take those cameras down.

After Houston voters told Mayor Annise Parker to take the cameras down in 2010, the city settled with the camera company for $4.8 million.

The mayor told Houstonians the money to fill that pot would come from unpaid fines. The city had $3 million in the bank from those who've already paid, which was a start. That money brought the settlement down to $1.8 million. But now, the city needs to collect nearly $53,000 every month until the end of 2014 to make up the difference.

The first month the city was just $111 short. The second month, they were short by $18,000 from what they needed to collect.

This month is off to a better start with half the money already in, so they may finally meet the goal for the first time.

The cameras were turned off in November 2010 and came back on for a month in 2011. But bottom line, these bills are all pretty old.

The city's sent thousands of letters to people who haven't paid bills all across the country and seems confident that after years of ignoring the bills, the citizens will now start paying.

"We're not ready to say we're not going to meet that goal because of the steps that we're taking. We're going to start with Phase One, which is mailing a reminder that you have this debt that is owed to the city; after that, we'll take the next step and we'll turn it over to the credit bureau. And then in the most extreme cases, we'll consider the possibility of filing a lawsuit," Parker's spokeswoman Janice Evans said.

The city can send the debt to credit bureaus and will file some lawsuits for big debtors, but the law won't allow them to send it to a collection agency or put holds on registrations.

If the violators don't pay in $53,000 a month, the city taxpayers will be forced to make up the difference.


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