By Bera Dunau STAFF WRITER
---- — Cooperstown Police Chief Mike Covert said he is pleased with the performance of Complus Data Innovations, Inc., the company hired by the town earlier this year to aid in the collection of parking tickets that has helped it collect $32,245 this summer.
Under the previous system, the village received yearly reports, with no monthly or seasonal breakdown. Because of this, a full evaluation of Complus’ performance will not be available for some time. The last pre-Complus report recieved showed that Cooperstown collected $77,704 over a period of 15 months.
Complus specializes in helping municipalities process and collect parking tickets.
As part of its two-year contract with the town, Complus provides Cooperstown with software, a ticket-writing machine and a web-based payment system. Complus has also taken over sending out demand notices to violators, and notifies New York State DMV not to renew a vehicle owner’s registration when they have three or more unpaid parking tickets within an 18 month period until those tickets are paid.
Complus charges nothing up front. Instead it gets to keep 18 percent of all parking tickets collected.
The town started utilizing Complus’ services at the end of May, and Covert says there has already been a significant improvement in the collection rate.
“I would say yes,” said Covert, when asked if collections were up over 18 percent.
As for why Cooperstown felt it needed Complus, Covert said that the previous system had been paper ticket based, and Cooperstown’s court clerk had been tasked with sending out the notices which, due to their sheer volume, had caused the town to fall behind.
“It’s just burdensome paper work to send out the notices over and over,” said Covert.
He also said Cooperstown is owed over $918,000 in outstanding parking tickets from the last five years, and that Complus has now taken over the responsibility of collecting this money.
“It’s found money that hasn’t been tapped before,” said Covert.
Complus sends the town monthly reports, detailing how many tickets were given out, how many were paid, and where the tickets were given.
“I can see trends from month to month,” Cover said, saying that such information aided enforcement.
The online system Complus has set up also has improved how the village handles tickets, Covert said.
Before, tickets had to be paid to the court clerk. Now they can be paid online and to the police department as well. The system also makes it easier for the authorities to check in on the status of a ticket.
“Somebody calls me and says they have a problem with a ticket, I can just punch in a ticket number and see what’s going on,” said Covert, while demonstrating how the system allows him to digitally look at every ticket issued.
Complus has also set up reciprocal agreements with neighboring states, authorizing them to collect for Cooperstown and for Cooperstown to collect for communities in those states. Complus taking care of the notices also means that fines now reliably escalate.
The ticket-writing machine Complus provided also has aided the town, according to Covert. The machine has the ability to take pictures after it has printed a ticket, something that helps the village in court.
“We take photos of every ticket that we write now,” said Covert. “Before this it was just our word against theirs. It’s made our conviction rate very high.”
The device also allows parking officers to scan a vehicle’s license plate to see how many tickets it has. If it has more than three outstanding tickets, the car is booted until the tickets are paid.
Covert said that the record for number of tickets on a vehicle found in this way was 98. The vehicle was booted for a week, while the vehicle’s owner reached a plea agreement to reduce the tickets and pay them off.
In addition to the machine provided by Complus as part of its contract, Cooperstown rented another ticket-writing machine at $225 a month from Complus for the summer.
He also said that introducing on-street paid parking downtown this summer hadn’t really increased the number of tickets given out, as those areas already had two hour parking.
Covert also says that parking enforcement isn’t intended to persecute people.
“All we’re trying to do is make people accountable,” he said.