Cities in Galveston County are involved in the 2013 Great Texas Warrant Roundup, a statewide effort to serve outstanding arrest warrants.
Cities in the county could potentially collect more than $35 million in unpaid fines from 70,000 outstanding municipal court warrants.
The program is designed to give people a two-week window to pay their fines or set up a payment plan without fear of arrest.
Dickinson police officer EJ Juarez said law enforcement agencies have suspended warrant services so officers can attempt to contact people on the list to remind them to make payments.
All bets are off starting March 2
But starting March 2, he said, all bets are off.
The Dickinson Municipal Court used clear language in a promotional poster about the program: “You could be arrested in your home, place of business or wherever you are found. Act immediately to avoid arrest.”
The warrants mostly involve traffic violations, such as speeding, though there are some public intoxication charges, too, Juarez said.
“These people don’t want us coming to their place of business,” Juarez said. “It’s embarrassing. These are everyday people like nurses, teachers and plant workers who will be losing a lot of money sitting in jail and not working.”
‘Cat and mouse’
Law enforcement agencies are working together with municipal courts to track down addresses and phone numbers of defendants in every city of the county.
People who are contacted by police in the following two weeks who do not pay their fines before March 2 will be added to the top of the arrest lists, Juarez said.
“They like to play a game of cat and mouse with us most of the time and wait to the last minute to get it done,” he said. “But eventually we catch up to them.”
Juarez has a list of more than 10,200 outstanding warrants, worth a total of $3.4 million, to collect on for Dickinson Municipal Court.
Statewide initiatives help local courts on tight budgets collect much-needed funds, Court Administrator Irma Rivera said.
“We’ve collected quite a bit of money already after publishing that poster,” she said.
More than one warrant
Many people have more than one unpaid warrant, Rivera said. The top 10 offenders collectively owe the city of Dickinson $23,514, she said.
League City has about 2,500 outstanding warrants that add up to slightly less than $1 million.
Friendswood is still totaling the dollar amount owed on more than 2,000 unpaid municipal court warrants.
There are more than 23,500 unpaid municipal court warrants in Texas City, totaling over $6.67 million.
Galveston Island has about $24 million in outstanding municipal warrants, police Capt. Jeffrey Heyse said. The city has refused to release names of people with outstanding municipal warrants, contending that the list is not a public record.
The roundup will last from March 2 to 10, but that does not mean defendants with outstanding fines who were not arrested are off the hook, Rivera said.
Contact list for the Great Texas Warrant Roundup
Dickinson Warrant Officer EJ Juarez, 281-337-6349
Dickinson Municipal Court Administrator Irma Rivera, 281-337-6297 for English or 281-337-6266 for Spanish
Friendswood Municipal Court Administrator Karen Renfrow, 281-996-3252
Galveston Co. Sheriff’s Office Captain Darrell Isaacks, 40-766-2305
Galveston Municipal Court, 409-765-3740
Kemah Municipal Court Administrator Jeana Preston, 281- 334-5910
League City Municipal Court Warrant Clerk Gina Vega, 281-554-1068
Texas City Municipal Court Administrator Ellen Berner, 409-643-5800