New Mexico Town Residents May Lose Utilities for Unpaid Red Light Violations
Residents of Las Cruces, New Mexico with outstanding red-light-camera traffic tickets are in danger of having their utilities shut off.
The program, placing cameras at intersections, is just over three years old, and in that time violators have run up $2 million in unpaid fines.
"Over time we were looking at various options, various ways to recoup that money," Udell Vigil, the communications director for the City of Las Cruces, told ABC News.com.
The fines are broken up between the city, the state of New Mexico and the camera company. The city is owed $600 thousand in unpaid tickets.
"We can't go through the courts; it's not that type of citation," said Vigil. "We don't have legal enforcement authority."
When the city explored options, officials came across Section 28-10 of the Las Cruces Municipal Code, which says, "The city may decline, fail or cease to furnish utility service to any person who may be in debt to the city for any reason, except ad valorem taxes and special assessments," according to the city website.
Letters are being sent out to violators. Once the resident receives the letter, there is a deadline for the ticket to be paid in full, or for reasonable payment arrangements to be made. If a resident refuses to pay, the city could shut off their water, sewage and gas. Electricity is not provided by the city.
"What we are seeing is that people who have received these letters are taking care of it," said Vigil. "There are some angry customers that come in and say it isn't proper the city is going this route."
Despite angry residents, many are acknowledging the responsibility of paying the ticket and other residents are calling to double check they do not have any violations, said Vigil.
Vigil provided ABC News with an example of the letter being sent to residents:
Dear Mr./Ms. Doe:
The City of Las Cruces has issued multiple Notice of STOP (Red Light camera) violations to you as the registered owner of the offending vehicle and as identified on the attached listing. Unfortunately, the STOP fines remain unpaid after several months of attempted collection.
Accordingly, you are hereby advised that, unless the STOP fines are paid or other satisfactory payment arrangements are made with the City on or before (date) the City will terminate all current City-provided utility service to the residence located at ______________________ pursuant to Las Cruces Municipal Code Section 28-10, a copy of which is attached.