Reminding offenders of outstanding traffic fines on their lights and water bills, and sending out mass SMSes are among some of the measures the eThekwini metro police is proposing in an effort to recover outstanding fines the city is owed.
According to the metro police, 3.5 million unpaid traffic fines amounting to R1.3 billion have been accumulated by motorists since 2005.
This includes R100 million in unpaid fines from this year. Last year R284m unpaid fines were recorded – up R6m from the previous year when R278m unpaid fines were recorded.
According to a document expected to be tabled by metro police head, Eugene Nzama, at Wednesday’s health, safety and social services committee meeting, 2 108 officers are responsible for issuing traffic violation fines.
A further 125 officers are located at various courts to ensure legal processes are followed with regard to the processing of a contravention notice.
Nzama said the increase in manpower had resulted in a substantial increase in the number of fines issued but did not have the desired effect on the collection rate.
“The volume of traffic fines issued resulted in a massive database of fines being created. This volume makes it impossible for the courts to successfully ensure all fines are enforced and paid for.
Besides the significant increase in the 2008/09 and 2010/11 collection rate, which Nzama attributed to the amnesty period – when the amount owed by motorists was halved – the collection trend for the past five years has been stagnant.
The municipality has only collected 13 percent (R46m) of fines written this financial year compared to the 27 percent (R100m) recorded during the amnesty period.
Nzama said however that these incentives created the mindset among drivers to only pay their fines during the amnesty period.
He said if another incentive route was to be considered, it would only be implemented once the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) and point demerit system was rolled out nationally.
Nzama said the culture of non-payment of traffic fines was a national one with only 13 to 20 percent of fines paid nationally.
He said metro police has also held discussions with the city’s finance department to include reminders on water and light bills and has held talks with cellphone service providers to use smses to notify offenders of their outstanding fines.
“This system can save us time and money by efficiently notifying the offenders of new and old outstanding traffic fines. This system can also reduce our postage costs.”
In an attempt to improve the collection rate, Nzama said several initiatives had been implemented over the years, including easy pay facilities at various outlets, a direct deposit facility to the council’s bank account, employing additional summons servers and call centres where motorists are given reminders of their outstanding fines.
“A tracing section was also established where staff dealt mainly with companies. This department with between 15 and 20 staff at one stage collected R15m in a single year,” he said, adding that the results could be increased if more employees were hired.
Nzama said summonses were also issued by officers to coerce motorists to pay their fines but this too has had little effect on drivers, with R142m in warrants still outstanding as of May. He said 29 680 warrants were issued last year to the value of R17m, adding that 277 roadblocks were conducted last year, resulting in 2 736 motorists being arrested.
“The introduction of a new letter called a ‘notice before summons’, designed to create a more legal warning to offenders with outstanding traffic fines, as compared to the other current formal letter was also introduced in April,” Nzama said. - Daily News