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11:50 PM CDT on Thursday, August 16, 2007

By CHRIS HAWES / WFAA-TV

FORT WORTH - Some are questioning the way Fort Worth handles drivers who avoid paying parking tickets. In many cases, if a driver avoids enforcement long enough, their ticket it simply dismissed.

While the Fort Worth Municipal Court office sees a steady stream of drivers asking for a court date in hopes that their ticket might be dismissed, many are unaware that the city may eventually do it anyway under a policy that allows purges of parking tickets more than two-years-old.

There is a twist; people who are trying to do the right thing and pay their tickets stay on the books.


"Obviously, if someone is paying their citation and they're making partial payments, we do keep those on record," said Jackie Mitchell, acting municipal court director.

Mitchell said the dismissals are done in the name of efficient record-keeping.

"Record keeping is very expensive," Mitchell said.

The practice began with a memo written more than a decade it ago that approved a mass purge of more than 132,000 tickets that were more than two-years-old.

In 1996, the city conducted another mass purge worth $1.2 million, which also included unpaid, older tickets.

Another memo approved a "mass dismissal of all [parking] citations issued prior to November 1, 2004." That memo added up to the dismissal of $3.68 million in tickets written in the past several years.

Council Member Wendy Davis is on the court advisory committee, which is the group that's historically recommended the purges. However, Davis said the committee was kept in the dark about this last decision. Davis said she only became aware of the decision after News 8 asked her about the memo.

"If we're going to issue the thing, we should enforce it," said Councilman Chuck Silcox. "We should follow up on it."

A city spokeswoman said the proposed purge will now be taken before the Court Advisory Committee for approval.

Fort Worth officials said the policy is cost effective, and also avoids confusion when cars later change hands.

However, Fort Worth is the only major city in the Dallas-Forth Worth area with a policy of purging relatively recent tickets. City of Dallas officials said old citations are never purged from their books and instead are handed over to a collection agency.