Harris County Criminal Collections Unit

Harris County is $60 million richer thanks to the development of a criminal collections unit. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more.

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Years ago, when a judge convicted someone of a misdemeanor they would levy a fine and send the person on their way. Most people, about 80 percent, never paid the fine. These days, the collection rate is nearly 90 percent. Harris County District Clerk Charles Bacarisse says the collections unit is now ten years old and is collecting an average of $6 million per year.

"It can go into the county's general fund and be used for anything that the Commissioner's Court deems necessary so it gives the court tremendous latitude."

The Criminal Collections Unit started as a pilot project and after four months of operation, expanded to all 15 county criminal courts.

"We're creating a culture of compliance with the court's orders and our citizens now understand that when a judge orders them something, if they're coming out of the county Criminal Courts at Law they better go ahead and follow that order."

The average collection is a little less than $200 and the county collects from more than 3,000 people every month. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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