Analysis: Georgia towns make a lot of money from fines and forfeitures

According to a recent analysis by the Reason Foundation, two cities in Georgia relied heavily on fines and forfeitures, with more than three-quarters of their general revenue coming from these sources.

Lenox and Warwick, both located in south Georgia, ranked highest on the list with 79.7% and 76.9% of their total revenues, respectively, collected from fines and forfeitures. Interestingly, there were five cities in the Peach State, including Oliver, Hiltonia, and Rocky Ford, that derived at least half of their total revenues from such sources. Moreover, the analysis of 478 cities in Georgia revealed that 34 cities collected fines and forfeitures amounting to at least 20% of their total revenue in 2019, while 81 cities collected fines totaling at least 10%.

According to an analysis by Vittorio Nastasi, director of criminal justice policy, the current Georgia law permits the Department of Public Safety to revoke speed detection device permits from cities if the revenue generated from speeding tickets exceeds 35% of the police agency budget. However, this law is seldom enforced and is not effective in curbing the practice of policing for profit in Georgia. Nastasi suggests that state lawmakers should consider implementing stronger limits, similar to the ones recently adopted in Alabama.

Nastasi added that if revenue-oriented policing is curtailed, it would not only improve public safety but also enhance the public’s trust in local law enforcement.

According to a report by Reason, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Report on Local Government Finances revealed that in 2019, local jurisdictions in Georgia collected a total of over $158.1 million in fines and forfeitures. On average, each jurisdiction collected around $330,940 during that year.

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In 2019, Atlanta collected a total of $25 million from fines and forfeitures, showcasing the higher dollar amounts that larger cities in the state generate. On the other hand, smaller cities like Duluth, Marietta, and Sandy Springs collected between $2.5 and $3 million in fines and forfeitures during the same period.

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