Hot line for scofflaws warms constable's heart

Six months ago, Las Vegas constable Bobby Gronauer created a hot line for callers to report out-of-state license plates and city residents jumped with glee.

You see, they were thrilled to dial 455-3247 (FAIR) and turn those free-loading scofflaws who fail to pay their share of the state's vehicle registration fees that go toward maintaining the very roads they travel. It allowed them to vent about those neighbors whose Indiana license plates have been affixed to their car for years.

And staff members in Bobby G's office have taken literally thousands of calls, more than 4,500.

But is the program working?

Several readers have called me over the last few months and expressed frustration that their complaints are being ignored. That car down the street still has Indiana plates. And, just for the record, Indiana is being used as an example; I have nothing against the Hoosiers, even though I don't really know what they are.

Bobby G, on the other hand, has deemed his program such a success that other jurisdictions, namely Henderson, are looking to follow suit.

"It's going better than we anticipated," the outgoing constable said. "I would love to have it in two to three years from now that we have no calls. This is a program that can kill itself, and there's no problem with that."

What he means by that is that if his investigators knock on enough doors -- citations in hand -- and enough out-of-staters have their registration suspended until they cough up a $100 fine, perhaps word will spread among scofflaws that they are required to get Nevada tags within 60 days of moving here.

Newcomers are supposed to get their Nevada driver's license within 30 days, which seems a bit kooky to have those deadline discrepancies because your license must match your plates.

Anyway, of the 4,500 or so calls Gronauer's office has received, they have opened 750 investigations. More than 300 of those have registered their vehicles and paid the fine. Of the remaining calls, 360 were duplicates, 200 were outside Gronauer's jurisdiction, which is Las Vegas Township, and another 200 callers didn't provide sufficient information.

Gronauer said callers should leave information regarding the make, model and color as well as the license number of the potentially offending vehicle. It's not necessary to follow the vehicle and play cop, although that has happened. Gronauer said one man called dozens of times in a few minutes because he was trailing the car.

Other important information includes the callers' number or e-mail if they would like the constable's office to get back to them about the complaint.

"Some people feel like they're snitching, so they don't want to leave their number," Gronauer said. "Then they want to say we aren't doing our jobs."

This might be another misunderstanding that has led some residents to believe that the office is ineffective: Because of the large volume of calls, it can take Gronauer's investigators up to a month to get to a case.

"I'm a lame-duck constable and I'm still working," the always cheerful Gronauer said. "We put a lot of work into this office. We're not just going to let it go to hell."

Those who ignore the citations will end up in the court system, which causes further delays. It's best to respond. The deputies will write a ticket for $1,000, and a notice is sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which suspends the registration. If you take care of the citation promptly, it costs the $100 to Gronauer's office and registration fees to the DMV.

The office has two full-time deputies dedicated to doing the background checks and 30 who fan out across the city to deliver the citations.

So far, none of the deputies has been punched.

"We haven't gotten any type of bad stuff, I'm serious about that," Gronauer said. "Out of all of the calls, there are maybe 100 -- and that is a liberal number -- from people who think it's a negative program, we're picking on the poor people, we're Nazis or we are just a new bureaucratic place to make money."

The $100 fines pay for the staff and services needed to keep the program going; taxpayer dollars are not used, Gronauer said.

If Gronauer is correct and this program is working, then residents who fume when others don't pay their fair share of registration fees can continue their happy dance. Just remember, you can't turn in out-of-state students, military personnel or those who live in Las Vegas during the winter, when their home towns are blanketed with snow.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at 702-387-2904, or send an e-mail to roadwarrior@reviewjournal .com. Please include your phone number.