6:00am | Long Beach City Auditor Laura Doud, accompanied by Mayor Bob Foster, held a rather discouraging press conference yesterday morning regarding the recent audit report which declared the City was missing some $17.6 million in uncollected parking tickets from the past three years.
And the answer, at least according to city officials, is rather simple: an archaic, inefficient system which tracks citations — AutoPROCESS, used only by Long Beach and Pasadena, the latter of whom is already in the midst of purchasing a different system — uses excessive staffing resources and lacks the ability to properly keep track of information.
As Auditor Doud succinctly put it, “The City’s system that documents citations [is] hopelessly out-of-date and unreliable. […] As a result, the City is losing revenue every year.”
The system lacks several key components: beneficial features, causing excessive manual processes to be incurred; a more efficient way to prohibit manual corrections, meaning that the current system easily allows staff to void citations or alter data; and an efficient way to purge old data, causing the City to expend enormous manpower to erase old data in order to effectively insert obligatory data. Worst, it lacks electronic interfacing with DMV; given this, during the time a particular ticket remains unpaid, the pertinent information connected to that vehicle (ownership, address, or license plate) might change and AutoPROCESS has no way of connecting with DMV to update this information.
This, of course, leads to other major problems.
The majority of the unclaimed funds are from “scofflaws” or, in this particular situation, those who have 5 or more parking tickets. In a previous audit from five years ago, of which yesterday’s conference was an update on, Doud discovered the same amount — $18 million — in uncollected parking citations, some $11 million of that was from scofflaws. This prompted her and her office to do a test run of 200 scofflaws and discovered that 86% of the records studied did not accurately reflect the proper registered owner. This leads to an inability to immediately tow cars belong to scofflaws since Police and Public works must then contact the DMV to confirm that it is indeed a certain vehicle that belongs to a certain person.
The booting program initiated by the City at the time of that audit proved failing. According to both Foster and Doud, it was expensive, time consuming, and inefficient.
“Realistically,” stated Foster, “we’re never gonna collect 100% of the money that’s outstanding […] It is frankly not fair for people that abide by the rules, pay their fines on time, and who are doing what’s right by the City while others are gaining from the system.”
Both Foster and Doud insisted that the City must upgrade its system. Currently, Long Beach shells out some 345,000 parking citations that bring in about $13 million per year in revenue, a value that is diminished given the current system’s collection fallout.
However, the cost, obtaining a new system, and which system will be needed is not directly known. Doud, still lingering with uncertainty, estimated that a new system — if approved — could be implemented within a year.
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