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City’s Unpaid Ticket Drive Is Double-Parked

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles city parking administrator Bob Yates, trying to clear a backlog of unpaid parking tickets, said Wednesday that he hopes for patience from what may be several thousand people being mailed notices to take care of old tickets that they have already paid.

Although he was not certain how many might have been dunned for fines that they no longer owe, Yates said there have been 200 to 300 protest calls a day since the city began sending out notices a few weeks ago in an effort to collect on overdue parking citations.

“We hope it isn’t a major problem,” Yates said.

He called the current procedure of mailing out notices to 250,000 apparently delinquent ticket holders a “one-time backlog cleanup” in the wake of the city’s takeover from Los Angeles County of parking ticket processing.

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Formerly, parking violators paid tickets at the county’s 24 Municipal Courts, adding to the congestion there. In December, the city’s Department of Transportation took over the collection function--as well as all other parking-related responsibilities in the city. It also absorbed the 400-member civilian traffic officer force, which previously was under the city’s Police Department.

As of Friday, Yates said, 135,000 of the 250,000 notices had been sent out. About 40,000 already have been returned as not deliverable because of wrong addresses or other misinformation.

“Some people have been paying,” Yates noted. “We’ve received at least $115,000 so far.”

But others, he said, are contending they already paid or do not own the cars any more.

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Unlike some other public officials, Yates declined to blame that old standby, “computer error.” In some cases, he said, ownership change information may have been slow to arrive from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

He noted that the DMV conducted an amnesty program in the first three months of this year to clean up many overdue fines and that it was possible that not all of those payments have yet been reported by the state agency to the city’s Transportation Department.

In other cases, he said, the master file passed along by the county may not have shown all fines paid at the courts.

Yates said many of the callers have sent in canceled checks or other proof of payment. “If someone has evidence of payment, we are recording that ticket as paid,” he said.

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He added that he and his staff are distressed to have to subject residents to the special notice program as the city attempts to update the file, but that the alternative would cause even more unhappiness.

That would entail putting a “registration hold” on any vehicle with unpaid parking tickets, telling the DMV not to re-register it until the matter is cleared up.


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