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Sangamon County Cracking Down to Collect Unpaid Fines, Fees
Tens of thousands of traffic tickets take up rows of shelves in the Sangamon County Circuit Clerk's office. Many remain unpaid.
"You're from Texas, and you've got a ticket here, and you never thought the court system in Illinois would catch up to you," Sangamon County Circuit Clerk Tony Libri said. "It took us several years, and we did. We are now going to start moving forward at much greater speed than we have in the past."
That's why county leaders decided to get some outside help to collect the money.
"About two years ago, we started this program and it took a lot of updating computer information," Libri said. "We had to go through every single file we forwarded to them to make sure it met the criteria."
Employees enter ticket information into a computer, then forward it to a collection agency.
It's time-consuming, but proving more effective than past efforts.
"There was an effort made, a legitimate one, through the courts and state's attorney and us, but the people for some reason just wouldn't do it," Libri said.
The county has collected close to $500,000 in unpaid traffic tickets.
The tickets, along with marriage licenses fees and other fines and fees, generate $15 million for the county each year.
"Every dollar - some of which the court system pays that supports the courts - is one less dollar we have to find in taxes," Sangamon County Administrator Brian McFadden said.
The clerk said traffic tickets are the start. He hopes to use the collection agency to track down other fines and fees, including unpaid child support. His office is working with the state's attorney to accomplish that.
Of the money that's been collected for traffic tickets, the collection agency takes its share first. Then, one-third goes to the state, one-third goes to the county, and the other portion goes to the police agencies that write the tickets.