95% of Possible Citations Are Never GritenMost of my comments have been on auditing in garages. Seems reasonable, since that’s what I do. However, the other day I was involved in an intriguing conversation about on-street parking and the way cities write citations and collect them. I was amazed, and I put the ideas forward here without comment. I would need to do more discovery before I can either confirm or deny, but they are compelling. (Ye gads, one article in PT by a lawyer and I’m beginning to sound
First, the statement: One fellow in the group on which I was eavesdropping said simply that 95 percent of the possible citations in his small community were never written. Wow – my auditor mind says that that number is a really big one.
OK, some context. The speaker was from a relatively small city (less than 100,000 population). A lot of the parking violations were for overstaying the time limit for free parking. You know – “Restricted Parking – Two Hours Only “or whatever. How do they deal with it? Basically, chalking. Somebody goes around and marks the cars and then goes around two hours later and tickets every car with a mark.
Out of the blocks I can see what he is saying. First off, there are probably cars that had been there for 30 minutes or an hour when they were chalked. So, if they left one hour and 59 minutes after chalking, they were in violation. So the technology, or lack of it, used by the enforcement arm of the city is the problem. But that’s only a small part of the issue.
He went on to say that the other problem is they chalk only “problem” areas. That is, places where they have had complaints. “Let’s face it: We don’t have enough enforcement folks to do the job right. To do so would mean we would have to have a two-person crew for every three or four blocks. That’s not going to happen.”
So there is a second problem. That is, most violations go completely unreported.
I was sitting there content in my new-found knowledge when he added another zinger.
“Well,” he said, “I have to admit that we also don’t get to all the metered violations, either. We treat metered parking just the same as unmetered.”
Wow! Basically, he’s saying that 95 percent of all parking violations in his community go unnoticed by his officers. They must be a bunch of incompetents. Or are they?
Think about it. Are there really enough staff to properly handle enforcement in even a medium-sized city? I live in Los Angeles. I can go weeks without seeing a policeman, halfway a parking enforcement officer (although I do seem to see them coming by just before the sweepers on street-cleaning day).
How about personal experience. I was in San Francisco the other day with my editor, and we had a meeting at City Hall. We got a great spot just in front. It was something like $3 an hour and we had about $1.50 between us. We didn’t think that would be a problem because our appointment was to last only about 20 minutes. So in we went.
We were kept waiting 15 minutes, then the meeting exploded from a “pick up an information packet” to a full-blown interview of a senior member of the city. An hour later, we made it back to the car, fully expecting to see a ticket. None there.
This happens to all of us all the time. We either don’t have all the change necessary, or we park in the “1 hour” zone and come back in an hour and a half and there is no citation. Well, if it happens to each of us say once a month and there are 100,000 vehicles in the city, that would mean that more than 1.2 million citations aren’t written every year just in that small city mentioned above. If they write 20,000 a month, that would mean 80 percent of the citations aren’t being written. Not too far off from the attention-getting number our hero above was spouting.
What does all this mean in the grand scheme of things for a city? First, it means that its parking regulations aren’t being enforced. If the laws against murder or robbery were being enforced like this, there would be a revolution.
Of course, most people think that parking laws should be struck off the books anyway.
I do tend to agree just a bit. If the laws aren’t being enforced and no one is following them, then why have them?
Well, the reason might be that they are, in fact, needed. Without these rules, our streets would be chaos. Breaking the parking law once a month is a bit different from breaking it all the time, everywhere.
But what is the other issue for the city? Revenue! If a city could, in fact, write all the citations that were deserved and collect the fines attached to those citations, think of the money that would be rolling in.
My guess is that if such an effort were put forth, there would be a spike in fines, then people would begin to follow the rules a bit more and things would settle down to where it is now, with about the same number of citations being written, because there are always people like me, who push the envelope, just a bit, in parking.
After all, some of us must live on the edge.