Shasta County—Since the legislature cut hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for California courts again this year, it’s more important than ever that court ordered fines be collected. Plus, courts are required to go after that money.
The Shasta court does an especially good job of that. Since they set up the unit 18 years ago, they’ve brought in $73 million in delinquent accounts. They’re going after about a hundred million more. That’s a lot of people not paying their court debts on time, with serious consequences.
Ray Tickner, Chief Financial Officer, “So it tells you that people really let it go delinquent before they want to start talking to you. And that’s not the time to do it because then we’re going out and putting holds on your driver’s license, we’re suspending your license, we’re garnishing your wages, we’re liening your property, we’re trying to get you to respect the court and the order that’s handed down.”
Shasta now has a staff of 21 collecting, reporting, distributing and consulting for courts in five counties, including Glenn.
Ray Tickner, “They were collecting around $452,000, right now we’re up to over 3-quarters of a million dollars a year we’re collecting for Glenn alone, which is a substantial amount when you consider the size of the county.”
That’s a 49% success rate, when the benchmark is 34%. For Yuba County, they have a 73% success rate. And they’re just starting to work in Colusa. People are paying up.
Ray Tickner, “We find we get a lot of cooperation because we call up and kind of counsel them, we try to help them through their debt process. We even get thank you letters, believe it or not.”
(Clerk speaking) “Your problem now is transportation? So we’ll work with that.”
Ray Tickner, “I’ve got some real aggressive collectors but they’re really really nice.”
Lori Loveless, Shasta Court Collections Officer, “You certainly want to be able to work with a person to help them as best you can to collect those fines so that they can move on.”
But don’t mistake the compassionate tone for weakness.
Ray Tickner, “We’re going to be persistent, we’re going to make you honor your debt some way, we’re going to get some kind of answer out of you. Do you want to work it off, do you want to sit it out in jail? Or better still, set up a repayment schedule.
Patty Walls, Shasta Court Services Supervisor “As long as they’re consistent with the payment we encourage them, we will work with them on getting their fines paid off, even at $5 a month, that’s better than nothing.”
They do not write off any debt, and they never forget a debt, no matter how old it is.
Ray Tickner, “One the other day we had was ’88. He wanted to know ‘Where did you find me?’ He remembered it. We never forget. We’re watching.”
These collectors take their jobs very seriously, because it’s not just about the money. It’s about respect for the justice system.
Ray Tickner, “If a judge assesses a fine and he gets ignored, then his credibility gets challenged. We don’t like to see our judges’ credibility get challenged.”
They even have eyes and ears in Canada to track down scofflaws, to make sure what’s rightfully owed – is paid.
I’m Leanne Kozak reporting from Redding for California Courts News.