Public concern over Cedar Rapids enforcing traffic camera fines through collection agency
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS 2/ FOX 28) —
Days before Christmas, Cedar Rapids city leaders are going after millions of dollars in unpaid tickets from controversial speed cameras.
221,000 people are receiving letters in the mail demanding they pay up on tickets issued by city traffic cameras in the last seven years.
Some drivers tell CBS 2 news, they are still reluctant to pay despite the city's move to use a collection agency to obtain these outstanding fines.
"I don't feel like i need to do anything. I was not driving," said Eric Dreismeier.
He received a letter on Monday for a speeding fine on Interstate 380 from two years ago.
"When I saw that I immediately tore it into pieces and threw it away," said Dreismeier.
It was his friend doing the speeding.
"He had the car, technically it was still under my name but I hadn't had the title changed over," he said.
His friend and many more Cedar Rapids residents, never paid their fines. That is in part because many because a 2015 legal settlement protected those unpaid fines from affecting their credit.
With the letter, sent by the Municipal Collections of America,the city is trying to reclaim more than $17 million from automatic camera fines.
This includes cameras on I-380, which were ordered to be shut down by the Iowa Department of Transportation last spring.
Despite the state claiming Iowa DOT has jurisdiction over the city's interstates, the City of Cedar Rapids still wants payment for fines when the cameras were in use.
"What we're sending out are those citations that we issued out prior to us shutting off the cameras, and the city's position is that we feel that those citations are due to the city and should be paid," said Casey Drew, Finance Director for the City of Cedar Rapids.
Once people receive the letter, they have 45-days to pay, or risk a 25 percent increase.
"The 25 percent increase is to pay for our collection agency to collect and do the additional work that it takes to collect that debt," said Drew.
Some residents told CBS 2 news they received the letter for tickets they already paid, and are worried it could be a scam.
"Yea, I'm a little worried for some people," said Dreismeier.
"If they feel they paid their fine, contact the Municipal Collections of America, give them your payment information to show when you made that payment along with what citation you paid it for, and they will take a look at on our database," said Drew.
Some still argue tickets from cameras, especially on I-380, should not be paid.
"Unless you're picked up by a patrol officer, you don't have to pay a dime," said Dreismeier.
The city says anyone who got a letter to pay a ticket can set up a payment plan with the collection agency, if they cannot afford to pay the fine all at once.
If this collection agency does not work, the city will consider using the Iowa Offset program to reclaim debt from these unpaid tickets.
That program withholds gambling winnings or individual state tax refunds to collect money.