Lawrence police now offering vouchers rather than tickets for some defective equipment stops

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If a Lawrence police officer pulls you over for having a taillight out, you might get a voucher to get it fixed instead of a ticket.

LPD and its Blue Santa charity have partnered with Lights On!, a Minnesota-based program that aims to help prevent equipment violations from sending people who are already financially stressed on a downward spiral that could mean someone paying a ticket rather than buying food; being unable to afford a repair and getting another ticket; or even winding up in jail because of outstanding tickets and fines, which can then lead to losing employment or housing, among other issues.

“Lights On! teams up with law enforcement agencies nationwide to provide vouchers to individuals who are stopped for these types of equipment violations,” according to a news release from the police department. “The voucher has an individual serial number and a place for the officer to fill in the vehicle’s license plate and the date.”

Officers might give vouchers for broken headlights, taillights or defective turn signals. It’s at officers’ discretion when to give them out, “with the hope that most go to those who need them,” according to the release.

“The voucher can then be taken to one of three participating auto repair shops to get the defective equipment repaired at no cost to the vehicle’s owner,” according to the release.

Vouchers are good for two weeks after they’re issued. Current partners in the program are Free State Auto Works, Lawrence Automotive Diagnostics Inc. and Westside 66, according to the release.

“We want to make it easier to comply with the law, not more difficult,” Chief Rich Lockhart said in the release. “We also hope it changes the tone of these stops to one where officers get to meet members of the community and they get to meet us — a positive interaction.” 

The Lights On! program is free to LPD, funded by Blue Santa and Lights On!’s parent nonprofit, according to the release. 

The idea of vouchers for repairs is one that has come up over the past few years as local criminal justice leaders aim to decriminalize poverty and reduce the number of people who are booked into the Douglas County jail.

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