RIDGELAND - Police have collected more than $300,000 in past due fines in the last year after ramping up the warrant division and cracking down on people - especially those who never appear for their court date.

Ridgeland Prosecutor Boty McDonald said that the city had a problem with people not showing up for court, specifically for minor traffic violations. In addition, they were not responding to the contempt of court notices giving them 10 days to pay the ticket or receive a fine, jail time or even suspended license.

"We had a reputation of saying 'Pretty Please' and hoping people pay their fines," McDonald said.

All this created an extensive backlog of tickets, which prompted the police department to better staff their warrant division a year ago. The new officers in the warrant division have since brought in almost $300,000 dollars in outstanding fines since October.

Police Chief Randy Tyler said the officers have helped clear numerous outstanding warrants and fines off the books.

"They are out beating the bush every day," Tyler said.

The most recent warrants are "top of the list" and they work their way down to older ones from there. They spend a lot of time making phone calls and when that fails they go to known addresses to try to serve the warrants.

Lt. Norman Sipp, head of the warrant division, said officers have cleared a number of outstanding warrants, including one dating back 15 years to 1999.

He said when dealing with the contempt of court cases, most people come in and turn themselves in and take care of the ticket. He said it is still recorded as an arrest, but they usually just come in and pay the fine.

Even though contempt tickets yield more revenue for the city, Mayor Gene McGee said, "We want people to pay due fines sooner rather than later!"