2015 Honorable Mention: Parking Operations
Easton Police Department-Easton, PA
In 2014, the City of Easton began exploring the idea of offering a better option for processing parking tickets from issuance to disposition. Many tickets issued were either going unpaid or the recipient would go on a payment plan at the magistrates office where they would pay pennies on the dollar owed and often times tickets would be excused by the magistrate resulting in no revenue collected by the city. A few violators had thousands of dollars in fines and were paying $20 a month and still receiving more tickets. The process was very inefficient and the city saw very little if any revenue from the outstanding tickets that did make it to a hearing. Additionally, many of the offenders with much less money owed were having warrants issued for parking tickets that had gone to a traffic citation and were being arrested by constables for non-payment. The entire process ended up costing the ticket holder much more in fines and costs than was necessary.
Essentially a parking ticket had now become a criminal matter and the court system was flooded with thousands of parking ticket hearings. In addition to the city not realizing much revenue from these tickets, it was costing the city money to input the data and convert them into citations (untold numbers of man hours). Printing the citations and processing them required and additional clerk both at the city and the magistrates office. Citizen complaints were out of control.
After extensive research on the matter, it was determined that there was nothing requiring a municipality to turn a municipal ticket into a traffic citation. In one study researched, the Dept. of Justice, recommended a municipality in a Mid-Western state “decriminalize all municipal tickets”. The Pennsylvania rules of criminal procedure merely require that if a municipality does convert the parking ticket to a citation, that it be done within the 30 day statute of limitations. Otherwise a municipality may choose to treat a parking ticket as a civil conveyance with proper supporting local ordinance.
After amending all existing city ordinances pertaining to processing of parking tickets, and writing new city ordinances supporting the process, from issuance to the appeal process and final disposition, the city had decriminalized parking tickets. In 2015, the process was vetted by the AOPC, Northampton County District Attorneys Office, city solicitors, city administration and the Easton Police Dept.
By initiating the new collection process, a revised fee schedule, a strict vehicle immobilization program, payment plans made directly to the city instead of the magistrate, an appeal process by an independent review board, increased documentation of each ticket issued and a PEO body camera program on the horizon, the process has been streamlined.
In the final year of tickets being processed at the magistrate offices, one magisterial district handled 6,000 parking ticket turned citation court hearings. In comparison, since the process was vetted and implemented in January 2015, the city has processed 15 hearings. Citizen complaints have dropped dramatically and revenue has increased by approx. 12-15%.
Firm Preparing Submittal
Easton Police Department
Contact: Lt. Matt Lohenitz
25 S. 3rd Street
Easton, PA 18042