How courts make criminals pay up

BENTON, FRANKLIN COUNTIES, Wash. -- Getting paid what you're owed as a crime victim seems straightforward. It's a simple solution that seems only fair. However, Action News learned the amount of restitution in our counties is going up. It means more victims aren't getting their due.

Kristi Edlund says it came out of nowhere. After years of peace and quiet while living in a west Kennewick neighborhood, she came home to find her boat tires slashed.

As you can imagine, those replacements came at a cost. The bill came out at almost 400 bucks.

"I just, we felt violated. We felt like 'can we have anything nice?' I mean, we work hard for everything that we have," said Kristi Edlund.

Although police never found the criminal, Kristi understands what it's like when victims don't get paid what they're owed. She wasn't surprised to learn local restitution numbers are in the million-dollar range.

We dug up the numbers. In Benton County, over 28 million dollars was owed in restitution last year. In Franklin County, that amount stood at 15 million. That's up by over 600 percent from the previous year. Officials say it doesn't take much to boost the numbers.

"A defendant can have a large amount of restitution. For instance, an arson case can have, you know, 100 thousand. It depends on what the prosecutor requests," said Benton County Clerk Josie Delvin.

Of course, when defendants don't pay, interest accrues. By law, interest is set at 12 percent. When it's paid, everything goes to the victim.

Of course, other fees for things like 'sheriff services' add up, too. Also, warrants for arrests can be issued. It's all in an effort to hold criminals accountable, so that victims like Kristi get justice.

To add, state and county officials send out regular reminders to criminals to pay up. Officials also report that Benton and Franklin counties have had some of the highest overall collections in the state.