BELTON — To hear bail bond companies tell it, Bell County’s use of personal recognizance bonds is putting the squeeze on them.
“Over the last five or six years the number of people on personal recognizance bonds has tripled,” said Robin Reese, president of the Bell County Bail Bond Board. “My felony business has dropped off the map.”
Reese, who owns and operates Strike Three Bail Bonds, claimed his business is so hurt by the county’s use of personal recognizance bonds that he doesn’t “get a bond on a weekend.”
“I used to get 10 to 12 bonds a weekend,” Reese said.
Gina Williams, an employee at Quick Bail Bonds, said she believes the county’s use of personal recognizance bonds helped close some of the bail bond businesses in Bell County.
“I’ve seen companies go out of business because of personal recognizance bonds,” Williams said, adding that downtown Belton “used to be lined with bail bond companies, not anymore.”
Since 2008, the number of bond companies in Bell County dropped from 22 to 12, Reese said.
“It’s a case of the government unfairly competing with the small business owner,” Reese said. “And when they ramped this up, I had several commissioners tell me they weren’t going to be competing with commercial bond companies.”
Precinct 1 Commissioner Richard Cortese said he thinks the bail bond companies’ complaints are a little overblown.
“We arrest between 1,200 and 1,400 people a month,” Cortese said. “About 150 people a month get personal recognizance bonds. There are still a lot of people in jail who need to be bonded out.”
Many of the bond companies that closed during the last six years did so because of bad business practices, Cortese said. “The bond board pulled some of their licenses,” he said.
Another complaint from the bond companies comes because the county’s indigent defense staff is processing individuals for personal recognizance bonds faster than commercial companies can take applications, which results in bond companies having to issue refunds.
“Every week I have to give somebody back $1,000 because of a personal recognizance bond,” Reese said. “Why even arrest someone if you are going to let them sign their name and say ‘I’ll show up in court when you tell me’?”