Like many drivers, Claudio Carrizal has some thoughts about red light cameras.
“In one word, it’s an annoyance,” said Carrizal, who lives in Fort Worth.
He’s received three tickets in the past year because of them, and while he makes it a point to pay them off quickly, he thinks a lot of people don’t take them too seriously. The city of Arlington’s own numbers would tend to agree with him.
The Arlington Police Department said since the city first began using the red light cameras in June 2007, more than 166,000 tickets have gone unpaid.
They said because the citations are civil and not criminal, it’s difficult to enforce them.
“They cannot go into warrant status and they don’t go on a driver’s record,” said Tiara Ellis-Richard, spokesperson for the Arlington Police Department. “Essentially, we’re just asking drivers to comply.”
But now, the city is working with Tarrant County to try to change things.
“We’re trying to make sure there’s some teeth behind the civil ordinance,” said Ellis-Richard.
State law allows cities to contract with a county tax assessor/collector’s office to put a “scofflaw flag” on the vehicle registration of anyone who does not pay their ticket. That means that person won’t be allowed to register or re-register their vehicle until that fine is paid off.
This process has been on the books for several years and Arlington said it’s been sending the names of violators to the Tarrant County Tax Assessor/Collector’s Office since 2009 -- but Assessor/Collector Ron Wright said the cost of this kind of enforcement has prohibited his team from following through.
“When I became tax Assessor/collector, I stopped that practice because we weren’t being paid for it,” said Wright. “It’s not the responsibility of a tax Assessor/collector to help cities collect fines. So, I told the cities if we’re going to do this, you’re going to have to pay us because there’s an additional cost to the tax office.”
But if you’d rather not deal with that, police said the solution is simple – don’t run red lights.
“Ultimately we want drivers to be safe in the roadway,” said Ellis-Richard. “That is the end all, be all of this entire issue.”
During their meeting Tuesday night, the Arlington City Council unanimously approved an agreement that will pay the tax assessor / collector’s office $5.24 for every unpaid violation it clears, essentially kickstarting this new enforcement effort.
The agreement still has to be approved by Tarrant County Commissioners before it can take effect.
Wright said other cities including Fort Worth, Bedford, Hurst, Haltom City and Richland Hills have approached his office about making similar deals.