OPD offers vouchers for broken car lights in place of tickets

Posted on Jan 28 2019 - 5:50am by Jordan Holman

The Oxford Police Department has teamed up with various auto shops – including Southland Body & Paint Shop, Neal Hodge Automotive Innovations, Oxford Auto Care and Deal’s Auto Repair – to offer vouchers in lieu of tickets for equipment violations through its new “We Care Program.”  

Instead of ticketing violators with broken tail lights or headlights, OPD now issues vouchers covering up to $25 in repairs to offenders.

“We have never really tried to punish someone who has a broken tail light or headlight,” OPD Chief Joey East said. “In the past, if people got their problem fixed in a day or two, we’d do our best to drop the court charges, which is why we liked this idea when Ronnie Harwell approached us.”

Harwell of Southland Body approached OPD with the idea and did much of the heavy-lifting, including talking to and convincing the city attorney and city CEO to get it off the ground.

“I saw a program where other small towns had a similar program and thought that it would be a good project for Oxford,” Harwell said. “So, I contacted some of the other shops I know and OPD, and we set about starting the program.”

Harwell said he reached out to the shops because he had previously worked with them before.

“We had to limit it a bit because some headlights can come in around $300 to $400, and we can’t afford to put many of those in for free,” Harwell said.

Although some lights can be expensive, shop owners said the bulbs typically cost around eight to 10 dollars plus labor, so the vouchers usually cover the cost of getting the bulbs replaced.

Since the inception of the program, OPD has distributed between 30 and 40 of the 500 vouchers, according to East. However, when stock runs out, OPD plans on asking businesses for more vouchers rather than ending the program altogether.

“We’ve had other businesses contacting us that want to be involved as well, so we plan to renew it and don’t see it going away,” Chief East said.  

The current businesses involved seem to have fluctuating amounts of customers redeeming vouchers. Businesses located centrally in Oxford, such as Southland Body, have reported several customers coming in with vouchers. Meanwhile, more out-of-the-way shops, like Neal Hodge Automotive, have not yet had any customers come in with a voucher.

“We’re a bit off the beaten path, in the southern county area, so we knew we wouldn’t get as many vouchers,” Neal Hodge said. “We’re still willing to work with anybody that comes in.”

When citizens and students in Oxford with broken tail lights or headlights are pulled over by an officer, they will be made aware of their equipment violations and asked for their driver’s licenses and insurance. Upon proving they have both of those documents and no other outstanding violations, the officer will provide them with a voucher to be used at any of the previously listed locations.

Violators will still receive a warning, according to East, and they will be logged in OPD’s database.  

“We were already trying to help people when we gave them tickets for headlights,” East said. “This is just a continuation of that.”