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Suffolk to start booting/towing program in late August

A red light camera at Indian Head Rd.

A red light camera at Indian Head Rd. and Jericho Tpke. in Commack as Legislator Rob Trotta speaks on sponsoring legislation to Suspend Red Light Cameras in Suffolk on April 11, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

Suffolk County will begin booting and towing thousands of scofflaws who have failed to pay red-light camera and moving violations as well as parking violations by the end of August, said Paul Margiotta, executive director of the Suffolk County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency.

Margiotta disclosed the timeline for the start of the initiative in an interview after testifying for 40 minutes before the county legislature’s government operations committee. He also told Suffolk lawmakers the county’s amnesty program, which ended March 30, has generated $2.3 million in revenue.

The county last month selected PayLock Inc. of Somerville, New Jersey, over two other bidders for a three-year contract with a provision for two one-year extensions, said Margiotta. PayLock has operated Nassau’s boot and tow program for the past five years, he added.

Margiotta said the contract is still being negotiated and he expects it will take six to eight weeks to complete. Once the contract is finalized, he added, it would take additional time to put procedures and protocols in place to launch the initiative.

While details are still being ironed out, Margiotta said his intention is to key on the biggest scofflaws — those who have three or more overdue tickets or owe more than $500 in fines. “I believe there should be a two-tier system,” he said.

Marigiotta said the vendor proposed to simply target those with three overdue tickets, but altered its proposal in response to the county. However, discussions are ongoing. Nassau, Margiotta added, has a more aggressive program that permits booting anyone with even one overdue ticket. The Suffolk Legislature in 2014 authorized the county to impose a $250 fee for booting, $350 for towing and $75 daily storage fee, but up to now has never implemented such a system.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) expressed concern about the lack of details about the impending program and called for a review of areas by ZIP code to see if poorer areas are being disportionately impacted. “Are we further penalizing people who simply can’t afford to pay?” he asked.

Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) noted that all communities have their share of single mothers and people with disabilities and others with problems who might also suffer from a towing initiative. “This has to be more than looking at just ZIP codes,” she said.

Margiotta said he does not have resources to do such a review. He said he believes while most people are responsible and pay fines, some “realized very quickly there was no enforcement and they figure there would never be any consequences.”

“Is Suffolk County going to turn into ‘Parking Wars?’ ” asked Legis. Rudy A. Sunderman (R-Shirley), referring to a cable TV show that details such booting programs in other communities. “I’m concerned the details are not being laid out for us.”

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