Hennepin County Sheriff to issue free repair vouchers instead of spendy tickets for faulty car parts

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The next time a Hennepin County Sheriff's deputy pulls you over, you could get a voucher instead of a citation.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday it was joining the Lights On! program. It gives drivers free coupons to repair broken headlights, taillights, brake lights or turn signals rather than penalizing them with a traffic ticket, "some people can't afford to pay a ticket and lose their license then get more tickets, we're making criminals out of people who sometimes need an extra hand," replied Sheriff David Hutchinson. 

Motorists can take the vouchers to participating auto service providers to have their vehicles fixed.

The program is run through MicroGrants, a Minneapolis organization led by CEO and longtime community leader, Don Samuels, "we have replaced about 1,200 lightbulbs our cost averages about $43 and that's because we fix everything up to $250." MicroGrants has raised $1 million in private donations and grants to pay for the program.  No taxpayer dollar money is used.  Lights On! focuses on helping low-income individuals by reducing the number of people whose licenses are suspended due to an unpaid fix-it ticket.  Samuels came up with the concept after the notorious traffic stop in the summer of 2016 in Falcon Heights, which escalated into the live-streamed officer involved shooting death of Philando Castile.  He'd racked up a litany of minor traffic violations.

"Programs like Lights On! are a win for everyone," said Sheriff  Hutchinson. "These vouchers lead to safer cars on the road and better interactions between law enforcement officers and the public. Most importantly, by avoiding tickets, we're preventing a ripple effect that can seriously affect the financial stability of low-income individuals."

Minneapolis resident Parker Brown said, "I think the more police focus on more violent crimes instead of broken down cars,a voucher would be a better option."  Jordan Egan is an activist with Communities United Against Police Brutality, "I think people probably wouldn't be as scared when getting pulled over, when they talk with police it would help a lot."

Minneapolis Police also said Wednesday that it has formally changed its policy to incorporate the Lights On! program, which it had been participating in for the past year.