The Village of Forest Park Amnesty program, which began early in February and ran through the first week of April collected $72,720 in outstanding parking tickets for the village, reported Forest Park Police Lieutenant Michael Cody.
“We still have outstanding tickets and are looking to add another $10,000 to that total,” he said.
The program was designed as an incentive for people to pay up on older tickets that had been referred to collection, by offering a tiered payment option for debtors and allowing them to clean up their credit.
“The amnesty program is designed for those who have maybe not been paying the proper amount of attention they should have to the notices they received indicating outstanding amounts due for parking tickets,” said Mayor Anthony Calderone. “It is an opportunity for them to come forward and have a reduced amount due on the tickets they have outstanding and make their records clean.”
Tickets for $150 from 1999 or older qualified for the first tier of the program, allowing drivers to pay only $50 per ticket. Tickets from 2000, 2001 and 2002 were only charged $100 and tickets from 2003 and 2004 were charged $120.
“Everybody is offered the opportunity except violators that have their driver’s licenses suspended for having 10 or more outstanding tickets,” Cody said.
Timing for the program was determined by the federal taxing schedule, Cody added.
“The reason we decided to do this is that people get their income tax checks and we felt they could pay a little better and clear all outstanding debts for the year this way,” he said.
Approximately 7,000 outstanding ticket notices were sent out early in February and, Cody said, next year the department might consider an amnesty program for tickets still in the system and not at the collections stage.
Chief James Ryan also said this program could be considered.
“We brought in $72,000, dealing with fringe tickets only,” he said.
The program has been a success according to village and police officials.
“I would consider it an outstanding success,” said Village Administrator Michael Sturino, who warned this particular program was not being planned again in the near future. “We are not planning on instituting it again. Residents and visitors who received tickets should not count on future amnesty tickets. We will enforce our ordinances regarding parking tickets.”
“The biggest advantage is to those individuals who have had tickets outstanding since 1999,” Ryan added. “This shows up on their credit history when they go get mortgages.”
Regardless of their reasoning, this program can be considered a success because a considerable amount of people took advantage of the program, Calderone said.
“When they [ticket holders] see an opportunity they can take advantage of, to pay something less than what normally would have been due, they tend to take advantage of it,” he said.
The program, Sturino said, is not unique to Forest Park.
“The city of Chicago has done it before,” he said. “The motivation was two-fold: one, to ensure final determination of a number of outstanding tickets and, two, to generate a substantial amount of the revenue that is due to the village.”
The program, Sturino said, was part of an overall parking solution for a village where parking is a serious issue.