Code enforcement clearing city warrants

ALBANY, Ga. -- Ever wonder what happens when the judge of the municipal court issues a warrant to arrest someone for violating some city ordinance or code?

Most of the warrants make it to the individuals they're meant for and the person pays a fine, performs some community service or even spends a night or two in jail.

But sometimes the warrants just float out into the community and never reach their intended targets.

Over the past 27 years or so, nearly 2,000 of those warrants have accumulated. Many still waiting to be served, which translates into somewhere around $100,000 in lost revenue.

Enter the city of Albany's Code Enforcement Department.

Recently, Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson was tasked to begin serving Municipal Court warrants.

In fact, the city has budgeted special overtime pay for Tilson's department so that his officers can track down those with warrants and serve them in hopes of both handling the pace at which the court hands out the warrants and in putting a dent into the stack of those that have already accumulated.

To deal with the older warrants -- the oldest on file is a 1983 urinating in public charge -- Tilson is contracting with a commercial-grade web-based people-finder company to help locate the individuals based on criteria including credit and bank account activity.

"Most likely there'll be several on the list that have moved away, died or otherwise just vanished," Tilson said. "But a good number are still in town and probably don't realize they ever had a warrant."

Since some may have graduated from the relatively small-time crimes usually confined to Municipal Court, Tilson says that his officers are undergoing training in high-risk warrant service and will always be a radio call from backup.

In July, Code Enforcement Officers attempted to serve 32 warrants. Of the 32, 26 were successfully cleared and of those, six were brought back into court.