Warrant roundup a success, officials say

Local Law enforcement officials say they managed to clear more than 550 warrants and collect more than $100,000 in fines during this year's statewide warrant roundup, which ended in late February.Municipal Judge Timothy Green said his office — working in conjunction with the Big Spring Police Department and the Howard County Sheriff's Office — participated in the annual event in an effort to help clear longstanding warrants from the city and county roles.The effort included letters sent out to those who had warrants urging them to contact the court and take care of their fines and charges, and, according to Green, the only thing more valuable than the fines and resources freed-up by the effort was the information gathered in the process.“Working with the statewide roundup, they are very stringent about what the letters must say and the wording,” Green said. “However, we were able to play around with some of it and see what is most effective. Some of the strangest things have the most impact. For example, there was a collection company handling some of the letters and they used colored paper for theirs. They got a much better reaction. You wouldn't think colored paper would make that big of a difference in a situation like this, but it did.“Overall, the roundup was a big improvement over last year. We weren't able to participate like we wanted to last year, so we had to kind of play from the sidelines. We collected about $70,000 last year. This year, however, we not only brought in more money and cleared more warrants, I felt like the educational value was really high for everyone involved. We all learned a lot.”While being arrested and hauled in for warrants is never a pleasant experience, Green said many of the violators who came in voluntarily learned aa important lesson.“They found out if they came in and saw their charge through the entire process, it didn't take nearly as long as most of them thought,” Green said. “We would much rather work with them and get these warrants taken care of than lock them up.”Green said he and his office are already turning an eye toward next year's roundup and are hopeful to make the effort biannual, but that's something that will have to come with time.“We have to take our time and learn what works and what doesn't. A big part of what makes the statewide roundup successful is advertising and word of mouth across the state,” Green said. “However, we are learning immensely with each state roundup and we hope to be able to hold one locally in between at some point. We just have to wait until the time is right.”In the meantime, Green urges area residents not to wait until the next roundup to take care of warrants.“It's a lot easier to just come down here and take care of them than to get locked up. It's faster and not nearly as embarrassing,” Green said.