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Cities looking at collecting on unpaid traffic citations to help during budget crunch

In this time of squeezed budgets many cities and states are turning to amnesty programs giving people a discount on their unpaid citations.

News on Six anchor Lori Fullbright did some checking and found out how much is the city of Tulsa owed in unpaid parking tickets and fines. She says it’s a lot more than pocket change.

To the people who get them, parking tickets and their $10 fine, can be such a nuisance. More people than you'd think, just toss them into the glove box and forget about them. Others don't have the money to pay parking or traffic citations, so in their panic, just ignore them.

If you don't pay the ticket or make arrangements, the late fees and court costs really add up. Bob Gardner with the City of Tulsa’s legal division: "What is an $80 ticket is now a $200-300 ticket when all is said and done. So, the worse thing to do is, not come in."

Unpaid fines also add up for the city. Between the parking tickets, traffic tickets, criminals cases ad warrants, it adds up to nearly $3-million and that's just counting the past five years' worth.

"If everybody came in and paid their outstanding fines and court costs, it would make a significant impact on the budget." In fact, the mayor's office says $3-million would make up for the city's current sales tax shortfall, which would more than cover the cuts being made to the police and fire departments. Some cities, desperate for the money, offer amnesty programs, thinking, something is better than nothing. But Tulsa decided against that option many years ago, afraid it rewards people for doing wrong. "Then, people would get the idea we'll have another one and they'd just wait to pay when the next amnesty program comes in."

By not paying, not only are people putting the squeeze on the very city programs that help them. They're taking a chance of getting stopped, taken to jail, getting their car towed and losing their license. "In my experience, sooner or later, people get caught."

Sand Springs' amnesty program last year brought in about $6,000. Henryetta's 60-day program brought in tens of thousands. Ponca City is currently looking into the idea.

If it's a matter of not having the money, the city of Tulsa will work with you. You can get more than one extension or you can work it off at $50 a day, versus in jail, where you get $15 a day toward your fines.
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