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Instead of fines for broken tail lights, police are issuing coupons

14 Twin Cities police departments are taking part in the program.
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A new program being rolled out across several Twin Cities police departments has officers handing out coupons to drivers with broken lights, instead of tickets.

The reason is so that drivers with low incomes don't have to choose between paying for minor repairs and paying for food.

Among the 14 city police departments taking part are St. Paul, Brooklyn Park, Richfield, St. Louis Park, Roseville and Maplewood, with the City of Maplewood giving some more details about the "Lights On" program in a recent blog post.

How it works

The police departments have teamed up with Minneapolis nonprofit MicroGrants, plus Bobby & Steve's Auto World for the program.

When a driver is pulled over for a broken turn signal, head light, tail light or brake light, they could get a coupon for free light repairs at Bobby & Steve's.

The program is aimed at low-income people, so the drivers who will get coupons are those enrolled in partner programs with MicroGrants, which provides grant funding to help poorer people with the cost of education, small businesses or transportation.

Around 20,000 people are currently enrolled with MicroGrants in Minnesota.

"Low-income individuals often lose driving privileges through a pattern of inadequate funds, differed maintenance, multiple traffic stops and accumulated fines," the nonprofit says on its website. "Often it is a choice between food and car maintenance."

While several cities are preparing to roll out the program soon, Roseville PD has already been handing out the coupons for the past month.

Roseville police officer Jeff Lopez told KSTP: "I think people are thankful once they get past the shock and surprise that we're trying to help them out."

City police chief Rick Mathwig told Lillie News that he's not sure how long the program will run for, but he hopes it's for a long time.

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