PLATTSBURGH — If you are thinking of committing a crime in Clinton County, you might want to remember your plastic.

Starting last week, the Sheriff’s Department began to take bail payments online using credit cards.

“This will be a big savings to us, will reduce risks in the jail and will free up more space,” Sheriff David Favro said.

The county began taking credit cards for bail last year, but the transaction had to take place in person at the jail.

In 2009, 99 bail cases have been paid with credit cards for a total of $155,292 in bail money.

With the online service now available, Favro expects the amount to increase significantly.

“If you are a college student from Long Island and you get arrested and need bail, your father can go online in his own living room and get you out,” Favro said.

“A lot of times, people get arrested on a Friday and they would have to wait until Monday to get bail, but now they can get out a lot sooner.”

Having people get bailed out sooner frees up space in the jail, reduces the need to provide medical attention and requires a lot less paperwork, Favro said.

The county has signed on with Government Payment Systems, a company that specializes in credit-card bail payments.

The company does background credit checks on all transactions and charges a fee for the service.

“We (the county) pay nothing for the service, and we get our money (bail),” Favro said.

“The company then takes care of re-payment. Hopefully, people will use this as a convenience tool and not a financing tool.”

A sampling of fees are $20 for bail up to $200, $95 for bail from $750 to $1,000 and 8 percent for bail exceeding $2,000.

Favro said it costs about $90 per day to house a prisoner, and having people released earlier would be a savings to taxpayers.

“We can probably save anywhere from $9,000 to $27,000 a year with this,” he said.

To access the credit-card payments, go to www.clintoncountygov.com, click on “Sheriff’s Department” then “Pay Bail Online.”

“... the site will walk you through it,” Favro said.

Prisoners are advised of the credit-card option when they are processed, and they still have the option of paying in cash or bond.

Franklin and Essex counties also take credit cards for bail but are not set up for online payments yet.

“I’m sure it is something we will be looking into,” said Franklin County Manager James Feeley.

Credit-card payments have been helpful for those arrested traveling on Interstate 87 in Essex County, said Undersheriff Richard Cutting.

“If someone comes in after hours, it’s hard to get cash, but if they have a credit card, they can use it.”

Favro expects the online bail payments to be used frequently in the coming year.

“With the college students, Canadians traveling through the area and out-of-town business people I think we will see the amount of transactions go up significantly,” he said.



E-mail Joe LoTemplio at:

jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com

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