Shreveport is owed more than $1 million in unpaid traffic fines

KSLA Investigates: Parking violators owe Shreveport more than $1 million

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - It's a problem dozens and dozens of cities throughout the country are dealing with, unpaid parking tickets.

Shreveport itself is owed more than $1 million in unpaid fines. In all, there are 16,825 unpaid tickets owed to the city.

Officials say the process to collect those fines lies at the center of the problem.

It all starts with the Downtown Development Authority parking patrols downtown.

"You gotta kind of control your attitude," said Robert McNeil, a maintenance tech for the DDA. He leads the parking patrol unit that issues tickets downtown.

McNeil also said their jobs, at times, are even dangerous.

"We've been cursed out, guns pulled on us, all type of stuff."

McNeil said he usually writes up to 40 tickets per day.

"We handle enforcement in downtown. We process all parking tickets for payments, and those revenues deposit into a city account," said Lorenzo Lee, the DDA's parking administrator.

With the DDA responsible for enforcement, it frees Shreveport Police Department from having to use its patrol officers.

The money collected by the DDA goes to a city parking enterprise fund.

"It's designed to kind of handle parking needs for the city and maybe even accumulate," Lee said. "So if maybe there's need for a parking structure or something of that nature, then that structure is there."

From 2014 to 2016, the DDA collected $991,859 in tickets, including those issued by ShrevePark, SPD and Airport Police.

There are some people who decide to dodge paying their fines, Lee said.

"We get some people who assume that they're going to just get away with it a little longer, I guess, and these are people we've booted and ended up collecting $300 to $500 in fines," Lee said.

"They just kind of let them sit out there accumulating these late fees. And if we let them go too far, it can add up to something substantial."

The four people who are most behind on payments to the city owe $830 to $1,060.

The top offender has 18 outstanding fines.

The city says it is doing everything it can to collect what's owed.

"Our collection rate is running like 79% to 80% which is not bad. It's actually pretty good," Lee said.

"Some cities have had issues where their collection rate is running 50 plus."

The enforcers give people plenty of opportunities to pay, Lee said. But after at least one notice and 60 days past due, they'll boot your car.

The Shreveport City Council has raised the late fee as a deterrent.

Getting a ticket remains a civil matter, not criminal. So the tickets will continue to pile up for those who dismiss the meter.

"They just have to understand we have a job to do," McNeil said. "It's nothing personal. They don't see it and they want to hear that."

Parking downtown is a limited resource, Lee said.

"So we've got to enforce those time limits in order to recycle those parking spaces so the next person can come downtown and take care of whatever business they have to take care of."

Lee also said the city is taking steps to transition from the current system to smart meters.

Smart meters allow people to pay with a credit card at the meter.

The system also has technology that allows people to use an app to find open parking spaces.

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