EL PASO, Texas - El Paso County on Thursday is expanding the types of offenses that will be subject to scofflaw -- when offenders have unpaid fines, so the county doesn't allow them to renew their vehicle registration.
"People who owe the county money, we have done our best to try to go after them, because we consider this the public's money," said El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar. "This is money that is owed to the organization and that helps us fuel your government."
The county's existing Scofflaw Verification Program has generated $3.6 million in the past three years, collecting fees through municipal warrants, the Domestic Relations Office and red-light citations.
But starting Thursday, all Class A, B and C misdemeanor fines that are 90 days late will be subject to scofflaw.
"We collect fees, but they're not fees that are big enough to really sustain the services that we deliver," said Escobar, who stressed the importance of increasing revenue without passing the burden to taxpayers.
Currently the county is awaiting payment on 2,500 delinquent misdemeanor fines, for offenses like public drunkenness, petty theft and traffic violations, according to Chief Deputy Tax Assessor-Collector Frank Ortiz. That adds up to about $1 million, he said.
Thursday also kicks off the county's new electronic fine-payment system for misdemeanor fines.
"We're also trying to make a more modern, easy way for everybody to pay," said County Clerk Delia Briones.
Offenders will be able to access the system through epcounty.com, where they can also check if they have any outstanding fines by entering their name, date of birth and cause number.
Some residents have fallen prey to a telephone-collection scam, Escobar said. Victims report getting calls from the "Texas Felony Warrant Division." The scammer calls from 855-345-6211 and asks for a MoneyGram.
Residents should never give their Social Security number, credit card or checking account information over the phone, Escobar said.
Links to the real payment system are posted at KVIA.com under "Links Mentioned."