You may want to think twice before lending your car to an acquaintance in Anchorage, particularly if his name is Eldridge Bradley. Bradley, 44, has racked up 77 unpaid municipal citations, earning him the top spot on the Anchorage scofflaw list. If he gets pulled over driving a car or truck within Anchorage city limits, the vehicle will be seized by Anchorage Police -- even if it's not his. And it would be costly to retrieve from the impound yard – racking up tow fees, impound fees and service charges.
Bradley has accumulated $9,083 in fines over the past three decades. But, Bradley has plenty of company on the city's list of delinquent fine payers.
The Scofflaw List – instituted in 2008 – contains the names of 1,704 people who have accumulated more than $1,000 in unpaid, minor-offense traffic fines. Together they owe the municipality almost $3 million. The scofflaw designation will stick with them until they pay up, and their bill includes outstanding fines and fees accrued before the implementation of the list five years ago.
That's the case for Bradley, who has been behaving himself lately, or at least paying his recent fines.
"He (Eldridge Bradley) has not incurred any new unpaid, delinquent minor offense cases since 2009," said Blyss Cruz, a collection supervisor with the Municipal Treasury Department. "Additionally, nearly 90 percent of his delinquent debt was accumulated prior to implementation of the scofflaw enforcement ordinance," Cruz said.
But the number of violations Bradley has been convicted of – many by default, meaning he did not show up in court to contest them – are staggering. His 77 unpaid traffic citations include:
• Speeding, 7 times;
• Not wearing a seat belt, 13 times;
• Emissions/registration expired, 15 times;
• Lacking proof of insurance, 8 times;
• Driving on a revoked or suspended license, 19 times.
According to the Anchorage Police Department, Bradley has had at least one car impounded, and he's not the only person who's lost a ride for not paying his fines.
Anchorage Police impounded 129 vehicles last year because the driver was on the scofflaw list. If a scofflaw owns the impounded vehicle, then he or she must pay everything owed to get it back. That can include up to a 30 percent collection fee, as well as other surcharges. And there's a big penalty for not paying up. After 30 days, the city can make a claim on the car and begin processing it for auction. If it goes to auction, the income is split evenly between the auctioneer and the Anchorage Police Department, but doesn't count against what the scofflaw owes.
The scofflaw list, and the ordinance that requires people to pay up or have their cars impounded, has had some effect. According to the municipal Treasury Department, more than $500,000 has been collected from people on the list since 2008, either through voluntary payments or impound sales.
"I believe the program has been effective because the number of scofflaws is not growing as it was before the scofflaw ordinance," said Anchorage Municipal Treasurer Dan Moore.
But the number of people paying up has dropped over the years. In 2012, only 57 people paid what they owed the municipality in outstanding traffic fines, about half of the 97 who did so in the list's first year, 2008.
Moore thinks that may be because fewer traffic cops patrol Anchorage. A scofflaw can only have a car impounded in Anchorage after being pulled over for a traffic violation. Anchorage's Police Department is at its lowest staffing level in a decade, with about 350 officers.
"The number of traffic citations issued by APD has declined by almost 35 percent over each of the past two years," Moore said.
The municipality also garnishes the Permanent Fund Dividend checks of people on the scofflaw list, but often the city is at the end of a long list of creditors – making impounding cars the primary way the municipality reclaims unpaid traffic fines.
"A lot of the top 50 on the scofflaw list are well-known to APD and have a lot of other issues," Moore said. "That makes them highly uncollectable, but I think the scofflaw ordinance is giving people an incentive to pay up that they otherwise wouldn't have had," he said.
Contact Sean Doogan at sean(at)alaskadispatch.com