For years, San Francisco has not bothered to collect the debt its criminals owe to society, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Millions of dollars in fines, court-imposed fees and victim-restitution judgments have gone unpaid, and the city has made little or no effort to pursue the people responsible. Court officials estimate that over the years, roughly 95 percent of criminals have avoided paying their legally imposed debts. As a result, the tab for compensating crime victims in San Francisco has been picked up by offenders in other counties and out of a pool of federal matching money – which means the nation’s taxpayers have been covering for the city’s crooks.
Only recently have San Francisco courts come up with a plan for trying to collect what convicts owe, after the state forced the courts to do so. Collecting used to be the job of the Probation Department, which is preoccupied with its main task of monitoring 7,500 felony and misdemeanor offenders. Jeanne Woodford, the outgoing chief of adult probation, said the office suffered budget cuts and at some point, it simply stopped making an effort to collect. “We walked into a real neglected area, just a real mess,” said Woodford. “There were lots of problems here – you went to the computer, and there was 10 years of bad data.”