"Warrant Clear Up" Week in Phoenix Nets at Least 1,500 Misdemeanor Scofflaws; Hunt for Holdouts Begins

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The city of Phoenix convinced at least 1,500 misdemeanor scofflaws to come in to court this week and take care of their old warrants.

Sergeant Tommy Thompson says the number is conservative and that he'll get an exact count on Monday from city court.

The police, court, public defender's office and city prosecutor teamed up for the New Opportunity Warrant Clear Up Program, which ran all this week. As we reported last Thursday, Thompson stressed that although officials weren't offering amnesty, they were willing to work with people on fine-payment plans and other issues.

Police planned to begin a crackdown on Friday afternoon for the holdouts. As of last week, an estimated 110,000 people had misdemeanor warrants out for their arrest in Phoenix.

One side effect of the program and crackdown is that it'll beef up the city's sagging treasury.

A similar program in Houston brought in $2 million.

But Houston's program, which ran for twice as long, appears to have been six times as effective. The surrender portion of the Houston program netted 24,000 people out of about 300,000, or about 8 percent. (Another 12,000 were nabbed in that city's ensuing crackdown.)

Phoenix's program encouraged just 1.36 percent of the total number of scofflaws to come to court.

But if Phoenix manages to coax an average of $55 out of each scofflaw, as Houston did, that's $82,500 the city wouldn't have otherwise had this week.

With the city is paying about 10 percent of its employees more than $88,000 a year, every little bit count.

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