Following 41 Action News investigation, KCPD to target top unpaid parking ticket offenders

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A 41 Action News investigation revealed some parking offenders in Kansas City racked up 30, 40 or even 80 tickets worth of unpaid fines. Now, Kansas City police say they will receive a monthly list of the top scofflaws to help with a more aggressive approach.

The 41 Action News analysis of nearly 39,000 tickets in Kansas City's Municipal Court database revealed an estimated $1.8 million in unpaid fines.

Traffic attorney Chris Kopecky said the numbers surprised even him.

"If you have the perception that you can have that many unpaid tickets and not really have any consequences as a result, it makes someone less likely to pay their tickets on time," Kopecky said.

Kansas City Police Department spokesman Capt. Steve Young said if an officer happened to pull over a scofflaw with that many warrants, the person would be arrested. However, police will now take a more aggressive approach.

"Since your story, we have spoken with the Municipal Court officials and they are going to provide us with a monthly report of the highest parking warrant violators," said Young.

Along with the monthly list, police say they also have vehicles with license plate-reading technology in each patrol division. The tool rapidly processes license plates as officers drive, and immediately lets them know if there are any outstanding warrants (including parking tickets).

"It's a good reminder to let people know that these cars are rolling around," said Officer Todd Heins, who showed the technology to 41 Action News on Wednesday.

Young said violent crime will remain the top priority, but chronic parking violators will no longer get a free pass. He did not indicate how many unpaid tickets would get drivers on "the list."

"If you think you have one parking warrant too many, it's probably better for you to get it taken care of on your own terms," said Young.

Kopecky said the threat of consequences is usually very effective in getting people to settle up unpaid fines. He pointed to the parking boot the city of Olathe used several years ago. Some states are also starting to suspend driver's licenses for people with outstanding tickets.

Dennis Gagnon, a spokesman with the city of Kansas City, said municipal judges declined to provide an amnesty period.

"They didn't feel like people should get a break after receiving that many tickets," Gagnon said.

Some people are already getting the message. One of the top offenders identified in the 41 Action News investigation, Brenda Nelson, paid off roughly $3,600 in fines.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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