Note: This story was updated at 7:15 a.m. on May 21 to correct the area in which the program will be offered.
The Chattanooga Police Department has started a new voucher program that aims to ease the burden of some minor traffic violations for motorists.
Police Chief David Roddy announced Wednesday the department is partnering with the grant program Lights On!, which replaces tickets with repair vouchers to be redeemed for free repairs at participating auto service shops.
The Lights On! program is an initiative that works to repair the relationship between a community and its law enforcement agencies. Roddy said during a news conference Wednesday that the citywide implementation of the voucher program is the latest way the department is using its "Policing and Racial Equity dashboard" to correct for inequities.
"The dashboard challenged CPD to analyze the data through an equitable lens," a statement from the department reads. "The result indicates a marginally disproportionate, negative effect on historically oppressed communities of color in Chattanooga."
Under the program, Chattanooga police officers can provide vouchers for repairs up to $250 on traffic stops. The vouchers can be used for mechanical problems with the vehicle rather than citing the driver.
The Lights On! method comes from the school of thought that even a minor traffic ticket for a broken taillight can mean more trouble down the road.
The Chattanooga Police Department has partnered with six auto six auto shops that will accept the vouchers:
> Christian Brothers Automotive Hixson - 5595 Hixson Pike, Hixson, TN 37343
> Downtown Automotive - 1725 S Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37408
> Danny’s Auto Center - 3415 Campbell St., Chattanooga, TN 37406
> Scenic City Auto Repair - 2828 Rossville Blvd., Chattanooga, TN 37407
> Express Tire & Service - 4911 Highway 58 N., Chattanooga, TN 37416
> Parker’s Automotive and Fuel - 3660 Brainerd Road, Chattanooga, TN 37411
A broken taillight or turn signal, the method says, can sometimes mean choosing between a minor auto repair or buying groceries for someone's family. The leaders at Lights On! argue that giving a minor traffic ticket "can also spark a downward economic spiral" that for some can result in multiple tickets, confrontations with law enforcement, and even vehicle impoundment.
"The dashboard data drove conversations and analysis of where changes are needed and can be made by the Chattanooga Police Department as it relates to certain traffic citations," Roddy said in a statement. "Bringing Lights On! is one way the department is implementing change in order to better and more equitably serve the members of our community."
The money for the vouchers will come from the police department's citation fees collected through the city's automated traffic enforcement citations. Those funds are earmarked for traffic education, enforcement and awareness, which the department said in a release is a "perfect use of these dollars."
The program is completely free to people who will receive the vouchers and is also supported by donations. To learn more on how to help visit LightsOnUS.Org.
Contact Patrick Filbin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.