City of Tulsa Working to Implement Text Notifications for Court Fines

Dec 7, 2018

Credit City of Tulsa

The City of Tulsa hopes to get a text-notification system off the ground next year that will remind people to pay municipal court fines.

Working with Code for Tulsa, the city tried texting a pool of people put on payment plans once a month ahead of their deadline. During the six-month experiment, 48 percent of people not receiving a text paid all their fines, compared to 63 percent of those who did get a text.

"I would have been excited for a 5 percent difference, but I believe it was a 15 percent difference," said Court Administrator Kelly Brader.

Some of the 22,000 people given payment extensions by the court each year simply forget to pay, but a warrant is issued for everyone who goes past their deadline.

"They then lose their driving privileges until the cases are resolved. I want to eliminate that happening to as many people as possible," Brader said.

The city collected an additional $93,000 in fines during the six-month trial and estimates it would collect an extra $187,000 over an entire year. Brader said she wants notifications sent for all cases, which should start next year.

"I’m working with some groups trying to figure out how we can get this more automated, trying to figure out exactly what it’s going to take in order for me to get this more robust, so to speak," Brader said.

According to city figures, 70 percent of the roughly 22,000 defendants given a payment extension each year end up with a failure-to-pay warrant.