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Closer Look: More Fines Instead Of Service For Traffic Tickets

FREMONT (CBS 5) - Given the choice, most people who get a traffic ticket would choose community service over paying what have become hefty fines.

But Alameda County traffic court commissioner, Nancy Lonsdale, admits she's trying to send a message by making people pay the fine.

 "If I run this red light it is going to cost me $400. People seem to take that a lot more seriously than, 'oh if I run this red light I will just go over to my usual community service place where I volunteer, my church or my food bank or whatever and just do what I normally do.' There is no deterrent" said Lonsdale.

She made her point to Harkewal Mattu of Fremont who was denied community service and received a $480 fine for driving solo in a carpool lane.

Commissioner Lonsdale said she has nothing against community service.

But she didn't like people coming back to her courtroom after 60 days and saying they couldn't find service work.

Still, organizations that rely on volunteers say, whatever the reason, they are getting fewer calls these days.

 "I often received about 5 or 6 calls a day, sometimes even more. Lately I have been only getting maybe 2 or 3 calls a week" said Paul Mueller with the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge.

As for the money that's now being generated from the fines, Lonsdale said she doesn't pay attention to how much money comes in, or doesn't come in, depending on the fines she imposes.

She's only been assigned to traffic court since March, which she says is not long enough to determine whether the fines have had an impact on repeat offenders.

(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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