LAS CRUCES, N.M. (CBS Las Vegas) — Fed up with the debt accrued in unpaid traffic fines issued by red light cameras, city officials in Las Cruces have decided to fight back by turning off the utilities — water, sewage and gas — of those who refuse to pay up.
Violators have racked up a debt estimated to total $2 million over the three years in which Las Cruces has used cameras to catch drivers in the act of running red lights.
“We came across an ordinance in municipal code that gives us the authority to, if anybody owes the city money for any reason, take appropriate action,” Udell Vigil, director of communications for the city, told CBS Las Vegas. “So we decided to tie outstanding citations to our utility accounts.”
Approximately $600,000 of the total owed sum would go to the city itself, with the rest to be paid to the camera company, Red Flags, and the state of New Mexico.
Residents have already begun to receive final warnings from the city detailing the deadlines by which they must pay off any outstanding debts. The due date for each person varies, depending on when they were issued the notice.
“So far, we’ve gotten a good response. People are coming in person or calling to check the status of their accounts and either making full restitutions or payment arrangements,” Vigil said.
He added that the city has not yet had to turn off utility service to anyone.