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Driving down debt: Lee County turning those with unpaid traffic fines, fees over to collection agency

DIXON – Remember that speeding ticket you tossed in a drawer and forgot about? Back in 1982? Well, get ready to pony up.

Lee County has contracted with Chicago collections agency Harris and Harris, which will go after four decades’ worth of unpaid court fines and fees.

Those amounts could number in the millions of dollars, State’s Attorney Matt Klahn said.

The idea first was explored by his old boss, Anna Sacco-Miller, who stepped down in December after deciding not to seek a second term as state’s attorney.

“We just decided to go ahead and go for it,” Klahn said.

There is still a lot of work to be done before the county can get the ball rolling, though.

McCaffrey-Ehrmann’s staff is transferring old accounts receivable to the new computer system the office switched to in September. Once that’s done, she and Klahn will decide which years and what types of cases they will tackle first.

“We are still building what our process is going to look like,” she said.

The contract is not costing the county any money: Harris and Harris make bank by tacking a fee on the amount the debtor owes.

Whiteside County courts have been using a collections agency for several years, and switched to a new one, Credit Collection Partners in Taylorville, at the end of last year.

In January, CCP pulled the files, dating back to 1989, of those traffic offenders who did not, for whatever reason, have a due date to pay their fines, and also did not have any warrants. Those people were contacted first, and so far, about $14,000 has been collected, Circuit Clerk Sue Costello said.

Next, CCP will pull the files of those traffic offenders who have been issued failure-to-pay warrants. With a judge’s approval, those warrants will be recalled, and their files will be turned over to CCP for collection, Costello said.

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