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The New Wave for Parking Ticket Payments? Community Service.
It’s time we start thinking outside of the box.

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By UPsafety Team Member:
Julie Miranto of United Public Safety

Traffic and parking tickets, love them or hate them, are a way of life. Truly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who’s never had one. Yet, as the average person groans in frustration when they see a ticket on their car (or curses out the PEO), they often forget how that $100 fine would affect those who are not as apt to pay.

For those who live below or close to the poverty line, a $100 parking ticket could potentially take half of their weekly pay check, leaving them without money to pay for what they really need.

Skip a few meals to pay off a fine?
Sounds a bit problematic…

Exchanging community service for overdue tickets is not a new concept. In fact, it’s a common practice in many municipalities for tickets that have gone unpaid.

Did you catch that word? Because that’s the ticket (pun intended). Unpaid.

Think about it this way: not only is a community service exchange option beneficial to those who need financial support, but also for communities as a whole.

As of right now, in most counties, tickets can only be exchanged for community service after they’ve been defaulted. But if we’re being honest, the word “exchange” doesn’t really define the process. In reality, community service is an order; a punishment rather than an option.

See the issue?

Let me explain further, when a person doesn’t pay their fine, a judge may issue a Community Service Order (CSO) to discharge their costs. At face value, this seems like a great solution to help those who cannot afford to pay—but don’t get too excited…there’s a catch.

When fines go unpaid, they will almost always be reported as a conviction on the person’s driving record, creating even more trouble down the road; increased penalties and fines, higher car or life insurance payments, damaged credit scores, etc. Being labeled a high-risk driver can have detrimental outcomes for anyone, but especially those already struggling with low-income.

As voices in the parking and traffic enforcement industry, it’s important that we speak up.

For many, an opportunity to exchange ticket fines for community service is a viable (and necessary) option from the start (not just after they’ve been labeled with the scarlet D for defaulter).

Think about it this way: not only is a community service exchange option beneficial to those who need financial support, but also for communities as a whole.

Community service is rooted in bettering the areas in which we live, making them cleaner and more comfortable for all residents. With community service as an exchange for ticket fines, quality of life is improved; streets are cleaner, people are happier, and low-income residents are not forced farther into debt, crime records, or poverty.

But there’s good news…

A few cities, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, have already started establishing community service exchange programs. College campuses are jumping on the trend as well, like Missouri State University who installed a new community service payment policy with hopes of inspiring their students to give back to the Springfield area.

Even more outside of the box, Strasburg, VA ran a campaign from September to December of 2016 allowing residents to pay their parking tickets with canned goods, donating them to the Compassion Cupboard of Strasburg for those in need.

So, maybe the CSO needs to become a CSE for all municipalities.

Give the opportunity to pay offenses in multiple ways for those who need it, instead of faulting them for being financially unstable; the benefits of doing so are boundless.

At United Public Safety, our customizable enforcement software gives you the ability to add community service, or any other new ideas you can come up with, as a payment option.

Interested in hearing more about our parking, permitting, and code enforcement services? Let’s talk! Call us at 215.394.1906 or email to learn more.