By Michael Hill
Thousands of people who lost their traffic, drug or other cases in Trenton Municipal Court have failed to pay their fines. So, on Oct. 1, Pioneer Credit Recovery will try to collect nearly $3 million in unpaid fines due the city.
“The message is we’re going to do what’s in the best interest of our taxpayers and collect whatever fines and fees are due to the city, said Trenton Business Administrator Terry McEwen.
Court records show that among Trenton’s debtors, is 28-year-old Dyshawn Virgies. He owes Trenton nearly $3,100. His grandmother says good luck collecting — Dyshawn’s been in prison since last year for drug convictions.
“They been puttin’ him on probation, let him out try to help himself get clean and all this other stuff. He ain’t have no job. Nobody won’t hire him for the payback,” said Dorothy Virgies.
Another debtor, a real estate business — MYG Management — that’s out of business right across from the front steps of Trenton City Hall. It owes the city $333.
Records show 20-something Barry Crudup owes the city $491 but his father — who didn’t want to be seen — says the records are wrong.
“I paid those bills. I paid them personally. I don’t remember, but I got the receipts and stuff,” said Crudup’s father. “Don’t they always got it wrong?”
In August, the city announced Pioneer would start collecting unpaid fines, but so far, no one has come in to sign up for a program called New Beginnings to put down 30 percent of their debt and agree to make installments before Oct. 1 — when Pioneer can tack on its fee of 22 percent of what debtors owe — no cost to the city.
Some of these cases date all the way back to the 1980s. Some of the people who lost here in municipal court owe the city more than $12,000 dollars and to say it takes city workers forever to find some of these people, is an understatement.
If Pioneer goes ol’ school, it’ll find disconnected phone numbers, boarded up buildings and folks who’ve moved several times since they lost in court. But Pioneer has access to a slew of databases to cross reference and find debtors who seem to have disappeared.
“It’s really to gain efficiencies and the effectiveness of an outside firm come in and help us with the debt collection. It’s something that they specialize in,” said McEwen.
McEwen says the $3 million is a fraction of Trenton’s $188 million annual budget, but money no cash-strapped city should just write off as a loss.