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I-Team: Millions Owed in Unpaid Tickets | News

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I-Team: Millions Owed in Unpaid Tickets

LAS VEGAS -- At a time when local governments are pinching every penny, the amount of money owed to the Las Vegas Justice Court is enough to make a budget director drool.

The amount of past due traffic tickets currently on the books is $170 million and the court considers their efforts to collect the money a success.

"I think it's more out of sight, out of mind," said Sgt. Robert Wyant who is with the Las Vegas Township Constable's office. He offers a not-so-subtle reminder to a driver of traffic stops in 2005 and 2006.

Wyant asks, "What do you think you can come up with?" He intends to collect at least a portion of the $4,000 the driver owes in fines and fees. If reason doesn't work, handcuffs serve as an effective negotiating tool. "Technically what it is, you pay or we take you to jail to go in front of a judge."

The constables have arrested more than 650 drivers since they began enforcing traffic warrants one year ago. The vast majority however voluntarily pay their due.

"Most people they know, they owe it. It's just there's been no threat behind paying the fines," he adds.

Motivated by $170 million in outstanding traffic warrants -- early last year -- the court established a two prong approach to traffic collections. The Constable's Warrant Enforcement Program and the creation of its own court compliance unit.

Since March of 2009, the court's in house collections agency, with four employees, has brought in more than $2 million. Coupled with the constable's take, the total exceeds $3 million. A far cry from the staggering $170 million in debt but a solid start says court administrator Steve Grierson.

"In such a transient community, it's very difficult to find people. And that's what the compliance unit does is reach out and find people and let them know that they do have outstanding balances," Grierson said.

Both the court and the constables offer payment plans which is preferred by many in this economic climate. And traffic amnesty is again being considered following its success early last year.

"We have to continue to look at what we've done in the past and what we do in the future and these are the facts and we gotta move forward and do the best that we can."

That $170 million dates back 15 years and is a somewhat inflated number. During the usual course of ticket negotiations, judges typically reduce the fine.

The amnesty program last year brought in more than $5 million in four months.