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Officer reduces warrants backlog

The police officer assigned to resolve the high number of outstanding Havre City Court warrants has said his three months of work have been successful, but that the work continues.

"It's been going pretty good," said Randy Robinson, who began work in December as the city's warrant enforcement officer. "We found that most of the people - once they were confronted with the warrants - take care of them."

Three months ago, there were about 775 outstanding warrants in Havre City Court. Today that number is about 650, Robinson said.

"We've collected anywhere from a $30 parking ticket up to $3,000," he said.

The arrest warrants are issued for people who fail to show up in court to face misdemeanor charges or for those who don't pay court-ordered fines. Many times, police do not have the resources to track down those people, so the warrants go unserved until police have another run-in with that person.

The Police Department decided to hire Robinson to solely for the purpose of serving warrants. He was paid with a Local Law Enforcement Block Grant administered through the U.S. Department of Justice.

He said this morning that the grant funding will expire sometime next month.

One of the tools he used was to publish in the Havre Daily News a list of names of all of the people with outstanding City Court warrants. The list filled two full pages.

"Our most successful venue has been putting their names in the paper," Robinson said. "We had a lot of people come in and and take care of it once their names were published. We also received a lot of calls from people letting us know where they were at."

City Judge Joyce Perszyk said that since the Police Department hired a full-time warrant enforcement officer, she has seen an increase in the number of people who come in to settle up with the court.

"We have seen more people calling and coming in on their own," she said. "Not only do they call Randy, but they call over here and want to take care of them. The first week (Robinson was on the job) we had several phone calls and inquiries."

One of the most time-consuming tasks for Robinson has been to enter the names of people who fail to appear in Havre City Court into a statewide criminal database. When authorities in other cities encounter people with City Court warrants, they can arrest those people.

"We've picked up people from Cut Bank and Great Falls, so far. The most important thing is that we are getting the warrants entered," Robinson said.

Robinson said he has made contact with about 70 people with outstanding warrants, and has personally cleared 37 by either collecting the outstanding fines or the bonds. He said he considers the numbers a success, although they did not meet his expectations.

"You always come in with high hopes. I've got to say that it's been successful in that we're getting them entered and having more resources looking for these people," he said. "As far as actual numbers, I wasn't as happy with it as I thought I'd be, but any that we clear up are better than where we started."

Perszyk said she considers the program a success.

"It's definitely a better number than they've had in the past," she said.

Most of the people Robinson contacts are already aware they have warrants. Most would rather open their wallets than go to jail, but a few were unable to post bond or pay their fine.

"I would say about a third I've actually arrested. The rest would post bond or make arrangements," Robinson said. "The nice thing was I had a little time to work with, so the majority of them I gave them a little time to work things out and clear them up."

Perszyk said Robinson has had an impact on people who otherwise would have taken their chances with a warrant. Those people now call or come in to take care of the warrant, she said.

She also said Robinson has also been aggressive in serving juvenile warrants.

"We've had Randy bring in juveniles off the street, or wherever it is he finds them," she said. "Juveniles are not exempt from this warrant roundup, either. I think a lot of juveniles don't think the court issues juvenile warrants, but we do."


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