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Cheaters Sometimes Prosper

In the wealthy town of Aspen, Colorado there are still people who find themselves short of money. So short, in fact, they found a way to cheat parking meters so they could get parking for free. They had lots of friends who were also low on cash, so they told their friends how to fool city parking meters – by swiping maxed-out pre-paid debit cards. Those friends told their friends, and since 2012, city officials estimate they have lost $700,000 in parking revenue, reports www.coloradoindependent.com.

“They just elected to find a loophole and abuse the system,” said Blake Fitch who took over as interim parking director for Aspen when the previous director was transferred to ice-rink duty after the extent of the scam came to light last fall.

The city of Aspen has several options for addressing this widespread dishonesty. One approach could be to double parking fees until the loss is regained. But that doesn’t seem fair for the many honest people who didn’t join in on the heist. Furthermore, the article reports that investigators have narrowed down the profile of the alleged parking thieves.

The Colorado Independent Consultants Network, which has become Aspen’s hired gun on the parking matter, has determined by studying patterns in the scam that the parking thieves were likely local working stiffs rather than the tony ski town’s wealthy visitors and second-home residents. That conclusion is based on the fact that the pay stations that were ripped off the most were in parts of downtown where construction projects were under way. Besides, the thefts didn’t increase during peak seasons when Aspen is jammed with visitors.

A very long paper trail and the expensive costs of new meters  and independent investigations is only adding to the financial pain this is causing the city. If the city’s hopes to penalize the guilty parties does not pan out, it might just have to recognize its own part in the situation: flawed technology and poor oversight.

People commit this kind of dishonesty because it’s anonymous. They are not stealing from anyone, they are just tricking a parking meter – a faceless, lifeless parking meter that won’t know any better or be hurt in any way. Putting a face on the injured party – namely, the city and its residents – might improve the outcome.

Read the rest of the article here.

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