BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington officials say their decision to crack down on parking scofflaws is paying off.
The city started sending parking tickets that have gone unpaid for 30 days to an Ohio-based collections agency in an effort to boost collections and improve efficiency.
So far this year, Capital Recovery Systems has collected $79,868 in unpaid parking fines, according to Mayor Mark Kruzan's office. That's up from $54,412 in the first seven months of last year, when the city's legal department filed claims with Monroe Circuit Court.
Kruzan told The Herald-Times that city officials had considered hiring a collections agency to go after unpaid parking tickets for about five years but had struggled to find a company that would agree to certain conditions. Those include being willing to work out payment plans with violators and agreeing not to make harassing calls to workplaces.
He said Capital Recovery Systems is legally exempt from federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act rules but agreed to follow rules mandated by that act, including not calling people during certain hours or calling people at their place of employment. It also agreed to allow residents to set up a payment plan if necessary.
The agreement allows the city to pursue an unlimited number of unpaid parking tickets. Under the old system, the city could file court claims against up to 50 people per week, Assistant City Attorney Jacquelyn Moore said. The process was time-consuming, and hearings for violators were often scheduled two to three months after claims were filed because of the court's schedule.
Parking enforcement manager Raye Anne Cox said the city receives the amount of the fine and Capital Recovery Systems charges the violators a fee equal to 30 percent of the fine. Cox said that amount is typically less than the $115 in court costs residents would pay if the city filed a claim in court.
Kruzan said the new system is "far more efficient."
"It's not been the kind of stereotypical collection agency problem with people getting called at all hours of the night and being harassed at work," he said. "And that was important to us."