Wednesday, May 3, 2006 | 7:41 a.m.
Responding to long waits and an overwhelmed staff, Las Vegas Justice Court installed a new phone system Monday, which court officials say will allow people to pay traffic fines in roughly three minutes.
The system, which allows people to make full or partial payments or schedule a new court date, is expected to ease congestion that has frustrated people trying to take care of their traffic tickets.
Chief Justice of the Peace James Bixler said the system "will speed up the process, end confusion and frustration and bring our court some needed improvement in the realm of customer service."
The court's Traffic Division has two people who handle calls into the court, but they have been overwhelmed with 900 calls a day. Only one of every three calls was being answered. The court handles 200,000 traffic tickets a year.
The $225,000 system will be expanded in June to handle calls in Spanish. The court is also planning to roll out a Web site in September that will allow people to make payments over the Internet.
By offering the ability to pay by phone, the court hopes to have a better collection rate for fines.
A report released last October said the court had failed to collect $61 million in traffic fines - about half of the fines it imposes.
Bixler said by using the phone and Internet systems "we hope to make it possible for a person to wait in line only if they choose to."
Court Executive Officer Chuck Short said there has been an increase in the number of people taking care of traffic tickets in person since the office was moved to the Regional Justice Center.
He said 700 people now come to the traffic court windows each day, compared with 550 at the old courthouse.
Although Short said it takes an average of five minutes for traffic court staff to handle each person's situation, it was not uncommon for people to wait as long as two hours.