City to publicize names of people who don't pay fines
People with unpaid City Court fines will get some encouragement to settle up this fall when the city begins to run a one-page insert in the Havre Daily News that lists their names.
The quarterly insert is intended to help collect nearly $600,000 owed to the city for a variety of reasons, including fines for tickets that have not been paid and people who did not attend programs they were told to as part of their sentencing.
Havre City Council member Tom Farnham brought the idea to the Havre Daily News this week after it became clear that a tight budget would mean City Judge Joyce Perszyk would not get to hire a clerk this year to help collect fines.
Farnham said he thinks Great Falls has used the strategy in the past with success and that it can work in Havre.
"If you see your name on the warrants list, you probably want to clear that up because it wouldn't look too good," Farnham said.
The project will not cost the city money, because the cost of producing the insert will be paid for by advertisers who decide to buy an ad on the back of the 8-by-11-inch page.
Havre Daily News publisher Harvey Brock said Wednesday the paper has agreed to try the project.
"We will attempt to sell advertising to sponsor the printing of a flier that will be inserted in the Havre Daily News," he said.
Brock said the strategy is similar to the paper's Crimestoppers insert, which the Havre Police Department uses to help catch some of Havre's most wanted criminals.
Havre police Lt. George Tate said the Crimestoppers insert, which puts four of the county's most wanted felons on the list every three months, has been very effective at helping officers catch criminals, particularly when the insert began two years ago.
"We were getting almost everyone we put in," Tate said. "... We'd run the ad and the next day the Crimestoppers phones would be ringing off the hook."
Tate said that recently the page has featured criminals with older warrants, many of whom are suspected to have left the state.
"We still get a few," he said.
He said the only concern he has with the new list is that in the time between when the list is generated and the insert prints, some of the people on the list could have paid their fine.
"There could be some cinvolved if their name is put in the paper and they've already taken care of it," he said.
Still, Tate said the Crimestoppers insert overcame a similar problem with a disclaimer, and he said the newest effort is worth a try.
"I don't think it'd hurt, because if you've seen our warrant book, it's full," he said. Tate said there are hundreds of people on the list, and that most of them are from the past five years.
Whenever someone doesn't pay a fine, a summons is issued. If that is ignored, a warrant is issued for the person's arrest.
City Judge Joyce Perszyk said Wednesday it could be weeks before she can get the lists together and transfer the ticket information from books and the old computer system onto a new Windows-based system. The new computer system was mandated by the state for all courts in the state.
Until the information is in the system, people who come in to pay their fines would not be able to, she said.
"If I had 300 people coming in to pay the bill tomorrow, we'd have to take each person individually and enter their old ticket info into the system," Perszyk said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Farnham said he had talked to Perszyk about her concerns, and that they had agreed to shoot for October for the first run of the insert.
Perszyk said today she can't commit to a date.
According to court figures provided by Perszyk to the Finance Committee of the City Council earlier this summer, there were about $595,500 in outstanding fines owed to the city.