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Washington residents who had ignored or overlooked their outstanding court fines recently took advantage of a debt reduction program that helped the state's court system clear more than 25,500 cases from the books and generated revenue of nearly $4 million. The program enabled residents to pay their debts at a reduced rate.

The program more than doubled the amount brought in when the state's Administrative Office of the Courts coordinated a similar effort in October 2002. The courts then closed more than 10,000 cases and collected $1.85 million.

Wendy Ferrell, spokesperson for the state office in Olympia, said the effort was helped by the fact the collection agencies involved agreed to waive interest and a "significant portion" of collection costs on tickets currently with their agencies.

One agency, Washington Collectors, worked with the courts on tickets that were more than 60 days past due. Typically, when a ticket was sent to collections, the agency automatically added 35% to the principal amount, plus interest. The agency agreed to waive the additional fees and the court system in turn worked out various deals to return certain percentages to the agency.

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