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Nassau boot-and-tow of scofflaws tops $1M collected

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano announces the beginning

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano announces the beginning of the county's Boot and Tow program in Hempstead. (March 19, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau has netted more than $1 million in the first 10 months of a boot-and-tow program targeting vehicle owners with outstanding parking or red-light-camera tickets, though the amount of money that scofflaws owe still tops $20 million, county officials said.

The county hired a private contractor, New Jersey-based PayLock, last March to scan the license plates of vehicles parked on public land, looking for those with three or more unresolved tickets.

Through the end of January, PayLock has booted 1,785 vehicles and towed 88 of them, said county spokesman Brian Nevin.

Motorists have paid the county $1.03 million to settle their ticket costs, although some have worked out payment plans, added John Marks, executive director of Nassau's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency.

"This program has certainly met our expectations," Marks said. "This is a million dollars the county would otherwise not have."

But officials concede the program has yet to make a serious dent in what Nassau is owed by scofflaws.

Nassau is owed more than $20.6 million in parking tickets -- some of which date back more than two decades -- although many of those motorists are long gone from the county, officials said. Nassau is owed another $4 million in unpaid red-light-camera tickets since 2009 and that list continues to grow, Marks said.

The boot-and-tow initiative has been more successful than a 2011 Nassau amnesty program, in which violators could pay their tickets without any added penalty. That program netted Nassau only $150,000.

"The scofflaws finally met their match," said Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), the legislature's minority leader. "The results of this program have been far more successful than the amnesty programs previously offered to collect unpaid fines."

Through the program, PayLock will first lock a boot to a wheel on cars with three or more unpaid parking or red-light-camera tickets. But if the past-due amounts -- and $166 booting fee -- are not paid within 48 hours, the vehicle will be towed, for an additional cost of $125, plus storage fees. Cars not retrieved from storage will be sold at auction.

Vehicles with two tickets will get a sticker on the windshield informing owners the car is in danger of being booted.

PayLock receives the booting fee plus 30 percent of the overdue ticket money from motorists who voluntarily turn themselves in after getting the windshield sticker.

The program has no cost to taxpayers, Marks said.

PayLock, which has a similar contract in New York City, deploys a team of one or two employees in different areas of the county and at varying hours searching for scofflaws.

After superstorm Sandy, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano instructed the firm to avoid hard-hit South Shore communities, such as Long Beach, for several months.

"We're a necessary evil," said PayLock president Cory Marchasin. "We just hope we are doing it in the least evil way possible."

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