The Macon Police Department will bring back its warrant squad after the first of the year in an effort to improve collections on traffic fines, parking tickets and other fines that run through the city’s Municipal Court.
The squad, phased out over the years to save money and put more officers on patrol, probably will have four officers assigned to it for a three-month pilot program, Police Chief Mike Burns said Monday.
The move comes after Councilman Ed DeFore pushed to bring in retired officers to collect money owed to the city in outstanding fines. But Burns’ plan will only use current officers, not retired ones.
The city has difficulty collecting and has even had trouble coming up with enough community service opportunities for people who can’t afford to pay their fines, administration officials have said.
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One problem will remain, even if more officers are committed to a collections process largely handled now by the court and private collection agencies: Any arrest to enforce a fine means jail time, and that means the city has to pay the associated costs.
That always has been a difficult balance, Municipal Court Director John Pattan has asked “how much is it worth to collect a fine?”
Burns said the jail bill will continue to “be the downside,” but he plans to give the warrant squad a try for several months, then report back to City Council.
DeFore said he thinks the fines are more collectable than some may think.
“Anybody can pay a parking ticket, a stop sign run or speeding, whatever,” he said.
To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.