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by YES! Weekly staff

Items from across the Triad and beyond

WSPD ADOPTS NEW RECORDS POLICY

In an effort to be environmentally friendly, the Winston-Salem Police Department has adopted a new records policy in which many hard copy records of cases will be destroyed and only the electronic copy will remain. The public safety committee at their meeting Monday night approved the policy. Under the new guidelines, the department will continue to maintain paper copies of high profile cases such as homicides, death investigations and missing person investigations. Cases are currently kept both on file through an electronic system and a paper copy.

At the meeting councilwoman Molly Leight expressed concern about the potential for an emergency in which the system was either hacked or lost power, and all of the data was lost. Assistant City Attorney Lori Sykes said there are daily backups of the documentations online as well as other safeguards in place to prepare for a potential emergency.

Also at the meeting, Police Chief Barry Rountree gave a presentation on preparations for a hypothetical terrorist attack in which he briefed the committee on an Emergency Management Institute Training for Emergency Responders that 75 people from organizations around the city participated in. The course teaches them about the practical realities of how to respond to a terrorist situation at the local level in the United States. The results of the study were that the city and county must upgrade their space and equipment as well as improve communication and among law enforcement and volunteer agencies.

GREENSBORO OWED MILLIONS IN UNPAID FINES

Greensboro City Councilman Tony Wilkins recently made an inquiry about fines city staff is issuing for illegal yard signs. Wilkins’ Jan. 5 email stated, “Around Feb/March of 2014, the city collected hundreds of illegal signs along High Point Road and other areas. I was informed that we levied fines against the people who installed these signs. One fine was in excess of $9,000. Please update me as to who was fined and when these fines were paid.”

The city manager’s office responded to Wilkins with some good news and some

bad news. The good news? Inspectors are out locating illegal signs and citations are being issued. More than $11,000 in fines for illegal signs had been issued. The bad news is the city has only collected a little over $1,000. That answer drove Wilkins to ask more questions about unpaid fines.

Late last week, Wilkins and the rest of the Greensboro City Council received information from the city manager’s office regarding the total amount the city is owed for unpaid fines. The answer? How about more than $4 million. $2.9 million is owed for unpaid parking tickets. More than $600,000 is owed for housing code violations, and another $600,000 plus is owed for fire code violations.

Out of all the violations reported by the city, parking violators had the most fines as well as the highest collection rate. Greensboro’s Parking Enforcement Officers have issued 453,090 parking tickets in the last 11 years that totaled $11,315,080 in fines. To date, $8,401,077 has been paid with a remaining balance of $2,914,003 due.

The collection process for parking tickets, according to the city, goes like this. If a citation is not paid within 46 days, the city submits it to a collection agency. Violators that have an identifiable social security number are “…referred to the NC Debt Set-Off program via an electronically filed claim at least 105 days after issue date for any unpaid balance of $50 or more.” The NC Debt Set-Off program helps garnish wages that come from state income tax refunds and also lottery winnings.

If the NC Debt Set-Off program is unable to identify state income tax refunds and or lottery winnings, the fine sits in the state system until paid. The email from the manager’s office also revealed other alternatives for enforcing unpaid parking tickets. “Debtors found in violation with 3 or more unpaid parking tickets can be towed or booted; implemented in late 2009. Debtors with $1,000 or more are reviewed for possible filing in small claims court to seek judgment.”

Staff will update council members at the Jan. 27 work session. The city manager’s office reported to the council that the presentation for the work session will cover “…. our current debt collection strategies and ideas for enhancing collections.” !

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