Fort Worth Mulls Putting Old Citations on Back Burner

Fort Worth may focus on newer cases

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It's not a get out of jail, or a fine, free card, but the City of Fort Worth is looking to set aside older tickets in an effort to clean up its system and focus on newer citations. (Published Wednesday, Dec 12, 2012)

    Fort Worth's overwhelmed computer system could take hundreds of thousands of citations off the books -- sort of.

    The city is considering administratively closing the cases of 670,000 uncollected tickets issued from 1994 to 2005. A city ad hoc committee heard on Tuesday a plan that would remove the uncollected citations from the court computer.

    Administratively closing the cases would mean that the city has explored every option it can to collect on those citations and can take them off the city computer to improve operations and put the focus on more recent offenders. But the cases wouldn't be closed, the city said.

    "They're administratively closed, which means they're still active and we are still able to collect on them -- they're not closed cases," city spokesman Bill Begley said. "If the opportunity arises to collect from these cases, we can still do that."

    The number of outstanding tickets is just 17 percent of the nearly 4 million tickets issued during that time. With staff exhausting all avenues to collect, it is time to focus on just the last seven years, he said.

    "We have a lot of tickets to come through here," Begley said. "This allows us to focus on that volume coming in and handling them in a more timely fashion."

    But people taking care of their tickets on Wednesday said they don't necessarily like the idea that some will get off while they're being responsible.

    "If I have to pay mine, they have to pay their's," Anna Kelly said. "I think that's not right. I could let it go on and on, but I don't want to do that. I want to do the right thing."

    Heather Haire said it has taken frustrating three years to handle her citation.

    "It took me two years to have the letter sent to me saying that I had a warrant for not paying a ticket, and I thought I had taken care of it," she said.

    Her failure to have insurance citation was dismissed on Wednesday.

    But Fort Worth wants to make it clear that if the city administratively closes the tickets, it will still try to collect if the people they have been unable to track down show up in their systems again.

    And people who have received a ticket, regardless of the year, still need to pay up or challenge it in municipal court.

    The plan to administratively close tickets will also give staff more time to aggressively pursue newer citations, even resorting to warrants if they have to do so, Begley said.

    The court director briefed an ad hoc committee of the city council members on Tuesday. The entire city council would have to give the go ahead to implement the plan, no vote has been announced as of yet.