City closes Arlington Violations Bureau; lets court handle all traffic tickets

ARLINGTON – The city council on Monday voted unanimously to eliminate the city’s Traffic Violations Bureau.

Now before you go tearing up that speeding ticket, read the fine print below.

Eliminating the violations bureau just means that all traffic tickets and notices will instead be sent directly to Marysville Municipal Court for payment and processing, except when you decide to contest your ticket before a judge.

Arlington created the bureau in 2012 during the transition from Snohomish County District Court to Marysville Municipal Court. Arlington and Lake Stevens contract with Marysville for court services.

The main reason Arlington established a local bureau was to provide better customer service and convenience for residents “who simply wanted to pay the fine listed on the civil infraction instead of having to drive to Marysville,” Arlington Police Chief Jonathan Ventura said.

However, things have changed the past five years within the criminal justice system with the rollout of the state patrol’s SECTOR database and state Department of Licensing processing. Citations held for 14 days delays notification to DOL on any possible revocations, and also removes the 14-day window in which the court is allowed to enter into a payment plan with an individual, Deputy Chief Daniel Cone wrote in a memo.

SECTOR is a data-collection and software system that provides officers the ability to create and submit tickets and collision reports electronically. The server sends the data on for processing to the appropriate court or licensing agency. Depending on the ticket routing selected by the officer, the ticket may be sent electronically to the court from the officer’s in-car laptop, or printed out and manually sent in.

Cone said it is more time consuming and costly on the part of records staff and court staff to process these citations because they have to be manually entered and processed rather than electronically filling the system.

Tickets that are not paid directly to the violations bureau are sent to court and incur a court filing fee of $46.

In 2016, there were 924 infractions issued by Arlington officers using SECTOR. Of the 447 that were sent to the violations bureau for processing by finance staff, 100 were paid to the bureau.

Cone said the decreasing trend of tickets written through the bureau, along with the additional staff time and separate handling needed since the upgrade, appears to reduce the degree of savings from eliminating the court fee.

Much like the violations bureau was focused on convenience for Arlington residents, the Marysville court has enhanced its customer service capabilities the past five years, allowing for payment by phone, mail and in person, Court Administrator Suzanne Elsner said.

Elsner said court officials are eager this month when they begin offering online payment services on traffic tickets and all court fines.

She said it’s a service that the court has been hoping to provide for quite some time, and residents in local cities should like the convenience.

“We have people email all the time to ask if they can pay online,” Elsner said. “This is just one more avenue to not have to make the trip to” the courthouse.

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