PUBLISHED: 20:54 EST, 28 April 2012 | UPDATED: 00:47 EST, 29 April 2012
An industrious town in New Mexico is upping the ante against traffic violators, threatening to shut off the utilities of those who don’t pay their fines.
Las Cruces’ unpopular decision came after they installed cameras at intersections and watched as $2 million dollars in fines just drove off into the distance.
‘Over time we were looking at various options, various ways to recoup that money,’ Udell Vigil, the communications director for the City of Las Cruces, told ABCNews.com.
Residential Restraints: Las Cruces communications director Udell Vigil, left, said the city came up with the idea after they installed cameras at intersections
Mr Vigil said that the $2 million dollar tab was divided between the State of New Mexico, the camera company and the city.
The city is owed $600,000 in unpaid tickets.
The problem is that the city’s hands are tied – they can’t go through the courts to get their cash, Mr Vigil said.
‘We can’t go through the courts; it’s not that type of citation,’ Mr Vigil said. ‘We don’t have legal enforcement authority.’
So they found a loophole.
Section 28-10 of the Las Cruces Municipal code says that the city can ‘cease to furnish’ utilities like water, gas and sewage to any person that owes a debt to the city, no matter how small the amount.
A lot of residents think this plan stinks.
‘There are some angry customers that come in and say it isn’t proper the city is going this route,’ Mr Vigil said.
Despite the outcry, Mr Vigil says a lot of residents are coughing up the dough– making the case for other cities to employ similar tactics
New Hampshire recently announced it would be turning off at least 100 street lamps to balance the state’s department of transportation budget, according to the Nashua Telegraph.
Other places are thinking outside the box and selling ad-space instead of punishing their residents.
In Texas, for example, the public schools have opted to plaster advertisements on school buses to cope with the statewide $5.4 billion cut in education funding, according to the Dallas News.