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Texas: Traffic Tickets Go Unpaid in Dallas

January 2, 2010

Texas: Traffic Tickets Go Unpaid in Dallas

Motorists ignore 85 percent of traffic tickets in Dallas, Texas. 

Audit report coverUnpaid photo enforcement tickets have plagued private vendors like Australia’s Redflex Traffic Systems, forcing the company to announce that profits have dropped by half. A report by the Dallas, Texas City Auditor released in March showed that municipalities are also feeling the pinch as four out of five motorists ignored municipal traffic tickets.

“Since FY 2002, the city has had a collection rate of 15.3 percent,” Dallas Auditor Craig D. Kinton wrote. “In addition, the city has accumulated 1.1 delinquent citations totaling $424.1 million in fines, court costs and fees. the probability of collection is substantially reduced because 78 percent or $330,767,771 is over one year old and has not been collected.”

In December 2006, Dallas gave Affiliated Computer Services, a Dallas-based contractor, the right to issue red light camera tickets at a total of sixty intersections. According to city documents, some vendors offered “guaranteed net revenue figures” to entice the city into adopting the programs. Thanks to the non-payment issue, however, profit has fallen far below the expected amount. The city’s fiscal 2008 budget anticipated $14,781,054 in gross revenue from photo tickets. ACS actually collected only $6,326,233. After paying off ACS and the state, the city only pocketed just $677,266.

The city has attempted to pass off the unexpected lack of profit as evidence that the cameras have been effective.

“Red light camera fines are $8,833,000 below budget primarily due to a lower than budgeted number of citations issued per camera per day,” Chief Financial Officer David Cook wrote in city memo dated August 25, 2009. “Like other cities, we have experienced a decrease in red light running incidents due to the changing behavior of drivers.”

The greatest reduction in the number of violations has happened at ten camera intersections where the yellow signal timing was increased. In addition, the city has performed extensive engineering improvements throughout the city, including installing larger, more visible signals and the adding new turning lanes. These improvements are known to reduce the number of red light violations.

To revive the falling revenue, the audit report recommended placing holds on vehicle registrations to encourage citation payment. Starting next month, Dallas County will do just that. The city expects to collect an additional $2.9 million in revenue as a result.

The auditor also recommended improving controls on traffic tickets. In the past three years, the auditor found 48,346 citations were missing from the court database, with serious potential consequences.

“The Dallas Municipal Court does not have a procedure for a centralized reconciliation of blank citations issued to officers and citations entered into the court’s database. A similar lack of control in Arlington Municipal Court resulted in a fraud perpetrated by two court employees who used ‘missing’ citations to solicit bribes from defendants.”

A copy of the audit report is available in a 550k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File AUDIT OF MUNICIPAL COURT FINES AND FEES (Office of the City Auditor, Dallas, Texas, 3/20/2009)

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