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It is never fun to have to pay fines to the city.

This December, the Ralston Police Department might not have made it more fun, but it encouraged people to give back.

RPD, partnering with the Baright Public Library, started “Food for Fines,” a program for people to be able to donate canned goods for the Food Bank of the Heartland instead of paying their parking tickets or library fines.

RPD Chief Ron Murtaugh said that the department was brainstorming of something to do for the holiday season when they came up with “Food for Fines.”

“We wanted to do something different,” Murtaugh said. “We’ve never done anything like that. We thought it was a good way for people to pay their parking tickets.”

Instead of paying a $15 parking ticket, Ralston residents could bring in five canned goods instead. Normally, $5 of a parking tickets goes toward Ralston Public Schools, but Murtaugh said that the district wasn’t upset.

“I reached out to [superintendent] Dr. [Mark] Adler and they were okay with it,” Murtaugh said.

At Baright, people could bring in one canned good in lieu of paying the library’s late fee.

The program ran Dec. 1 through Dec. 23. People could drop off any kind of canned good that wasn’t damaged, opened or in a glass container.

The program encouraged people to pay their fines, Murtaugh said.

“We had someone pay a parking ticket from 2012,” he said. “We had people pay parking tickets equate to about $150 in cash. So that was 30 cans of food.”

Some people didn’t even have fines to pay, but wanted to help out.

“We got a lot of donations from people who just heard we were collecting food,” Murtaugh said.

And while Murtaugh doesn’t have an official final count on how much food was collected, he knows that the police department had collected two boxes of food and the library had collected one box.

The program was a success, Murtaugh said. There is already talk of “Food for Fines” returning next year.

“We’ll probably look at it next year and do the same thing,” he said. “We may extend it next year from Thanksgiving through Christmas. It’s a nice stretch in the holiday season where the food bank sees a lot of business.”

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