27 Investigates

27 Investigates Youngstown's unpaid parking ticket problem

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - Youngstown has a big problem with unpaid parking tickets.

Three crimes in Ohio that don't have a statute of limitations are murder, aggravated murder and -- parking tickets. But some people try to dodge the meter attendants anyway.

City Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown Clark said Youngstown is owed a small fortune in unpaid parking tickets.

There are $1.3 million in unpaid parking tickets in the city. That's over 44,000 tickets. And that's despite using all the tools she has to collect the past due balance.

"It's a very big problem," Clark said. "When I came in, there were a large number of outstanding tickets and, you know, your first is, 'Wow, we need to get on this.'"

Clark said people have all sorts of excuses for not paying tickets.

"The dog ate it or it blew off the car. One ticket blows off the car. Not ten."

The idea is pretty simple. Park, plunk a quarter in the meter, come back in an hour.  When you don't, expect to pay a fine.

Fines on these tickets start at $10. They triple after a month. Other tickets get sent to collections. Still, they keep coming in.

Adrian Colbert's is one of them.

"It cost me $95," he said. "I paid it after they came after me, the courts."

Some people owe hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Others, like Ramon Taylor, found out that ignoring the tickets makes it worse.

"I got them -- even though half of the problem was not my fault, but still -- it holds up your license and I just, basically, got my license back after 22 years," he said.

"I'm gonna make it short, simple and sweet," Ray Carver said. "Pay them because it's not worth the repercussions."

He warned that your registration and even your driver's license can be suspended if you don't.

"That can result in an extended stay someplace you probably wouldn't want to be at," Carver said.

In his case, those tickets earned him a 20-day stay at the county jail.

Carver ignored them and couldn't renew his plates when the time came because of them. Then he went to jail for driving with an expired tag. That led to a suspended license.

Eventually, Clark said she'll get her money.

"I guess they don't understand that everything is computerized and it's on record, and it will jump up and bite you in due time."

The Youngstown City Court computer doesn't keep track of parking tickets by name. Instead, each one is tracked by the license plate on the car.

We asked to see a list of license plates with more than $100 in fines. That brought up about 9,500 tickets -- and some of these stats are incredible.

A man from Brookfield has 194 unpaid parking tickets. A guy from Salem racked up 152.

In the interest of full disclosure, we found two unpaid tickets owed by WKBN. We paid them both.

Those on the list come back to lawyers, doctors, college students and even Youngstown Law Director Jeff Limbian, who owed $2,300 from 54 unpaid tickets.

We had to ask the guy who prosecutes the city why he'd been ignoring the law.

He said he had no idea there were that many. He blamed the tickets on court hearings lasting longer than he thought.

Court records show he paid all of his tickets after WKBN brought them to his attention.

"As far as I know, they're all cleared up. There might be a couple of my mother's when she came down and filed something for me, but I think everything of mine is all cleared up now."

Clark said it's not the fine, it's that she doesn't have enough power to collect the money.

"We're not getting the $10. So I don't know that increasing the penalty is the answer to the question."

Limbian said the city should look at tougher methods of getting the money, saying the letters Clark sent out just didn't get his attention.

"After say, two or three tickets, I think you should have your car booted or towed."

With the large backlog and chances of collecting it dwindling, the city is looking at a parking amnesty.

"We did one in 2013 and it was very successful, but people keep racking up tickets," Clark said.

Limbian said that may be a good idea, even though he won't benefit.

Though this time, he got burned.

"I'm sure paying $200 instead of $2,000 would have been a much smarter move in the long run," Limbian said.

See the list of who owes unpaid parking tickets

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