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Published: 3/6/2010

Toledo tow threat, 'boot' boost ticket payments

BLADE STAFF
The fine for a Toledo red-light or speed-camera violation is currently $120, up from $95 in 2008. The fine for a Toledo red-light or speed-camera violation is currently $120, up from $95 in 2008.
CHARLIE NEIBERGALL / AP Enlarge

Mary Stalnaker could be the first Toledoan forced to ride the bus unless she takes care of her unpaid red-light and speed-enforcement tickets.

Ms. Stalnaker, with 43 unpaid tickets, tops the city's target list of 51 people with 10 or more unpaid tickets from running through or speeding past Toledo intersections equipped with cameras.

Toledo City Council on Tuesday authorized police in 30 days to start towing or immobilizing a person's vehicle by putting a "boot" on a wheel if the owner fails to pay red-light or speed camera tickets.

Mayor Mike Bell's plan to trim a $48 million budget deficit includes collecting $1.2 million from the unpaid tickets.

Police Chief Mike Navarre said some of the 51 people have made arrangements to pay their tickets.

"We are going to go after the worst offenders first," Chief Navarre said.

Ms. Stalnaker, who lives on Plum Leaf Lane in South Toledo, said she has paid three of the tickets online.

"I'm down to 40. I will definitely be paying all of those very soon. I want to be in compliance," she explained.

The city is owed approximately $6 million dating back to the beginning of the program in 2000.

Only 44 percent of those who are ticketed for the camera violations paid the fines last year, and the city of Toledo collected only $874,308 that year. It had hoped to get $2.5 million.

Some of the unpaid ticket money is owed to Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. of Arizona. In 2008, the city approved a five-year agreement with the company to continue operating the cameras, many of which also have a speed-enforcement feature.

The deal increased the share of revenue the city receives from 25 percent to 54.2 percent.

The chief said the threat of towing cars has motivated many of the scofflaws.

"The phones have been ringing nonstop in our traffic section, at Redflex, and also at their collections agency," he said.

The city released the names of the 51 people after a public records request by The Blade.

There are many more violators with more than 10 unpaid tickets living outside the city limits whose names had not yet been sent to Toledo by Redflex.

The fee from a red-light-camera ticket or speed-camera ticket is currently $120, up from $95 in 2008.

If all of Ms. Stalnaker's tickets were after 2008, she would owe the city $5,160. The total cost would be $4,085 if they are all before the fine was increased.

Under the new law that council passed, police will be able to immobilize a vehicle after a fine has gone unpaid for 21 days.

Having the boot apparatus removed will cost the owner $75 plus the outstanding fine. A boot is clamped onto a wheel to prevent the vehicle from being moved.

A vehicle can be towed after two or more outstanding violations of the photo enforcement devices. The tow would cost $125, and storage at the city tow lot would be billed at $15 a day.

Some of the offenders have multiple addresses because they lived at different locations when they received additional tickets.

Eugene Smith, whose wife Annette accumulated 17 tickets, said none of the violations was committed while she was driving the vehicle.

"We have a nephew who was doing some driving for her and on his watch all sort of things happened for her," Mr. Smith said.

"What can she do? She is in bad health and she knew about a few of them, but not all 17."

The tickets are sent to the registered owner of the vehicle.

Mr. Smith raised a common complaint that many have voiced about the tickets.

"If an officer stops someone else speeding in your car, the owner of the car would not be responsible, right? So why should they be responsible with this?" Mr. Smith said.

- IGNAZIO MESSINA



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