February 18, 2007
Pay your fines or go to jail

Folks who owe fines for traffic and other violations will soon face arrest if they don't pay up.

In what police called the first statewide warrant roundup, law enforcement agencies threatened Friday to arrest scofflaws who haven't paid their traffic and other fines.

The roundup of more than 1 million outstanding warrants across the state was announced by Webster police warrant officer Andy Kerstens during a morning news conference.

Kerstens was flanked by uniformed officers from other area law enforcement agencies in the Houston area. In all, 153 cities in 52 counties across the state are participating in the roundup March 3-10.

"This is for all of those people that didn't comply with the court orders," said Capt. Doug Perry with the Houston Police Department. Police made similar announcements in other cities.


The number of outstanding warrants for Houston was not immediately available.

But, according to the Dallas Morning News, Dallas had 400,000 warrants with a value of $118 million.

Police said the total amount of money collected statewide in the sweep will be disclosed after March 14.

Each agency involved in the roundup has sent notices in the past week to people with active outstanding warrants.

"You will be arrested in your home, at work, or wherever we may find you. Act immediately to avoid arrest," the notices say.

Officers will concentrate on traffic and parking violators during the roundup, but those with other warrants also are fair game, Kerstens said.

"What we're hoping to do with this roundup is to have people comply with the orders of the court," said Kerstens, whose department has 6,900 outstanding warrants.

People who pay their fines within the next two weeks should see their case closed and they can "avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment of arrest at home or at work in front of family,
friends and co-workers," Kerstens said.

This sounds like a sensible idea. I'm sure Dallas would like a piece of that $118 million, and I daresay whatever the total is for Houston it would come in handy as well. I'd like to know what success rate they have with their efforts - what percentage of the people they round up actually pay and what percentage can't or won't and thus get arrested - in addition to the dollar total they collect. That will help illustrate how effective this sort of effort is. We'll see what happens.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 18, 2007 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

The Harris County Jail is vastly overcrowded, but they're going to arrest potentially hundreds of people over traffic tickets? That makes little sense.

In fact, that's why Dallas decided NOT to participate. See the story in today's Chronicle about 101 people dying in the Harris County jail in the past 6 years. Is it really a good idea to subject people to dangerous jail conditions for mere traffic violations? best,

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast on February 18, 2007 11:59 AM