FLINT (WWJ/AP) – Because the county jail is so full, law-breakers in Flint are getting off with an appearance ticket instead of a more severe potential punishment.

Flint police handed out 17 appearance tickets during the first two months of this year, while Michigan State Police handed out 55 over the same period, The Flint Journal reported.

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The newspaper obtained state police records and Flint reports via the Freedom of Information Act.

Records show some of the suspects let go were those police said were driving on suspended licenses, driving under the influence, involved in assaults or caught during a burglary.

In one case from late January, Flint police responded to a house alarm on Wolcott near Ballenger Highway. Police saw a 19-year-old man running  from the house, a brief foot chase ensued and police caught him. Accused of a misdemeanor (unlawful entry), there was no room for him in the jail and he was issued an appearance ticket instead.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said the lack of jail space strips police of their basic power to arrest criminals and calls it detrimental to fighting crime.

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Gov. Rick Snyder has called for $4.5 million to reopen the Flint city lockup to free space in the Genesee County Jail.

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown has said opening the lockup is important because criminals are “laughing at the system.”

The County Jail has a maximum capacity of 580 inmates and is constantly overcrowded. Recently, Sheriff Robert Pickell reported the jail was packed with 596 people in cells and another 72 in holding, according to The Flint Journal.

Getting lodged in the county jail is limited to only those accused of more severe crimes, including drugs, domestic assault and drunk driving.

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