The city’s municipal court collected $260,000 in fines over a three-year period from delinquent individuals, according to court director Manuel Quiles.
Quiles said the delinquent fines were collected by a collection agency the city hired in late 2012. He said some of the fines go back to 1989.
Deadbeats owe the city more than $7 million, according to a 2012 estimate, in long overdue fines from parking tickets, criminal fines, moving violations, and other municipal court penalties.
“If they didn’t go after it we wouldn’t have gotten it,” Quiles told council members during a late October hearing.
Milwaukee-based collection Professional Account Management which was awarded a contract by the city council to go after evaders has been sending an “astronomical number” of notices to delinquent individuals, said the director.
Quiles said the money being collected does not cost the city anything. “The collection agency charges the defendant 22-percent. It’s at no cost to the city,” he said.
Business administrator Nellie Pou said the collection process is cumbersome and difficult due to the city’s transient population. She said many delinquent individuals are no longer residing in the city or they have moved out of New Jersey.
Some have died as well, said officials.
Chief judge Joaquin Calcines suggested a large portion of the delinquent fines stem from payment plans that the municipal court must provide to individuals by court rules. “We try to discourage payment plans,” he told the council.
“Anything you have to pay on time — remember there’s interest,” the judge said the interest in this case is the 22-percent. He noted the municipal court is not allowed to add interest on top of outstanding penalties.
The collection agency has been going in reverse starting from the most recent delinquent individuals. It has been going after the deadbeats’ credit scores in order to compel them to pay up.