Article Comment 

City collects more than $210,000 in first month of amnesty program


Allen Baswell



Since the city of Columbus implemented its amnesty program for outstanding Municipal Court fines on Feb. 1, the dividends have started paying off -- financially and in the number of warrants served. 


CPD Public Information Officer Terrie Songer said as of Saturday, the department had collected $210,926.78 in fines, and approximately 249 warrants have been served since the program was put in place. 


"We are continuing to serve old warrants, but if any new warrants are issued by the courts for contempt of court, or someone signs an affidavit, we will serve those first. Those will take precedence," she said. 


On Feb. 1, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith and CPD Police Chief Joseph St. John held a press conference to announce that the city and the police department were having an amnesty program designed to clear a backlog of warrants and fines owed to the city. 


Both the mayor and the chief urged those who owe outstanding fines to voluntarily come to the Municipal Building to pay the fines and receive amnesty. If they did not come to pay the fine, CPD officers would come looking for them to make an arrest. 


St. John said the persons who get amnesty would have to pay court costs, but not additional contempt of court charges. 


Songer said two veteran officers have been assigned to handle the duties of serving warrants to those who have not taken advantage of the amnesty program. 


''These are full-time officers who will be on warrant detail, but they will maintain their other duties as well. We will have some reserve officers to assist them when needed," she said. 


Chief St. John said the fact they are veteran officers on the force were why they were selected. 


"Both officers are veterans who know people and will be effective in these duties, and other duties assigned to them," he said. 


Songer said the warrant detail is a unit that will stay intact with the department, although the officers in charge will change when necessary. 


The amnesty program runs through April 30.


Allen Baswell is a former staff reporter for The Dispatch



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Reader Comments

Article Comment mandy commented at 3/8/2010 12:20:00 PM:

Has anyone ever wondered why they cannot do this any other time of year? They do this every year in February and March. They can find these people during other months. They want your TAXES folks.


Article Comment of course commented at 3/8/2010 12:54:00 PM:

I think it makes perfect sense this time of year. Many people might not have been able to pay their fines any other time of the year. The tax returns they receive might be the only way they can. Mandy, you make this sound like it is a bad thing. It's not like the CPD is cheating people out of their money. They are trying to make it as easy as possible for people pay something that they legitimately owe. This is the best time of year for that.


Article Comment KJ commented at 3/8/2010 2:02:00 PM:

The question of legitimacy is debatable. Ever been to court? Ever been fined by the "justice" system? Despite the "it's not about the money" comments made at the start of this campaign, the justice system is ALL ABOUT THE MONEY in this country. It's about taking it from every hapless enough to not be able to navigate the maze of regulation and procedure put in place for no other reason than to extract as much cash as possible from people guilty of the most minor offenses. They don't care if you're guilty or innocent. They don't particularly want to send you to jail. They just want their payday.


Article Comment rp commented at 3/8/2010 4:35:00 PM:

It kills me that 90% of these old fines are drug or alcohol related. Can't afford to pay their fines but can get drunk and high everyday. The city deserves the money they are owed. The state gets most of money collected for the fines.


Article Comment Greg commented at 3/10/2010 7:13:00 AM:

Some people forget that the fines are punishment for committing crimes. Would the offenders rather go to prison? The fines are to deter people from committing crimes. Maybe they should post the average fine amounts for some of the most commonly committed ofenses so people can see what they are risking. You play, you pay! It's as simple as that. You try to hide, you pay more. Own up to your wrong doings or quit doing them altogether.


Article Comment Stormy commented at 3/11/2010 3:31:00 AM:

Mandy, did we hit a nerve there? You sound outraged that the city would want to collect fines that people brought upon their on heads. The fines are a punishment, not just money grabbing scam. Greg, I do like your way of thinking, however, in this day and age where NO FAULT is a way of life, it is not going to happen. We have been telling folks that "It's on honey, you had a bad home life, it's not your fault you drove drunk and killed that whole family." for far tooo long. I do wish people would stand on their own 2 legs and stop making excuses, it is amazing that some folks can even walk around without a back bone.


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