I am a 34 yr. old musician from Greenwich, CT. , A UCONN grad, and have been an L.A. resident for ten years.
Over the years, I have begun to notice a disturbing trend in the L.A. police and traffic departments. In plain English, the system is predatory and the prey, unfortunately, are innocent drivers.
It seems that the common rule in this town is "Ticket now, ask questions later." From personal experience and testimonials from friends, I have come to realize that the system is stacked heavily in the County's favor.
Considering that California's financial troubles are widely broadcast it is no surprise that drivers are the perfect target for profits. With so many drivers in this town we have come to represent a collective cash cow for the government. This is not speculation.
Here's what I have found:
1. Most major, and smaller cities do make a decent amount of money off of parking meters. As an erstwhile New Yorker I understand that parking is at a premium and why not charge citizens a few bucks to use the city streets? This makes perfect sense. However, Los Angeles' major metropolitan areas have one thing that the other major cities dont share - Suburban and neighborhood streets interspersed with city infrastructure. The preponderance of perfectly good parking real estate on these suburban side streets has become off limits due to red curb paint, or purposely confusing parking signs. Of course, if you buy a permit you can park on the streets. But if you are not a resident of that block where do you go? Meters: .25$ per 15minutes. Forcing drivers to meters is a blatant abuse of city power. But this, admittedly, is rather minor. Other cities do this, not as egregiously, but they do it. And if nothing, I am fair.
2. The beauty of such a plan is at the core of what giant, faceless corporations have been doing for years. Milking money from consumers/constituents while remaining faceless and nameless. The ability to levy taxes, collect and impose fines, and issue citations from behind a curtain is quite convenient. A driver is targeted personally, usually for an infraction that does zero worldly harm to anybody (i.e. parking on a street on a street sweeping day after that street has already been swept and still get a ticket) by someone who the driver then, in turn, has zero access to. Again, I am not saying that L.A. is the only guilty party, but it is certainly the Crown Prince.
3. Here are some recent tickets that my friends and I have received.
a) I have a ticket in dispute currently for not having registration tags displayed. Not only did I have my tags but I had my temporary tags in back right window as well. Wouldnt there be record of my having paid my new registration months earlier? The ticket was given obviously by a blind meter maid.
b) On melrose, at a fully paid meter, for being too far from curb. I believe 18 inches to be the maximum distance from curb. I happened to be returning to car immediately after attendant had written ticket for being too far from curb. I asked attendant if they had meausured? They said yes. I said do you mind if we measure again? She said nothing. I asked her to produce the ruler or tape measurer she used- she would not reply. Obvioulsy she did not have one, because I happened upon her immediately after she was done writing ticket. Luckily, I had a tape measurer in my trunk. The wheel base was a mere 13 inches from curb. I followed the woman telling her to come look but she had just ignored me and got back in to her car and drove away. I found a police officer walking street and asked why I was given a ticket. He replied "Wow. She really gave you a ticket for that????" I was forced to pay ticket upon contesting weeks later.
3) I once recieved 3 tickets on consecutive days for one single correctible violation. Obviously there is no communication between ticketing agents.
4) Myth: Parking attendants constantly tell victimized drivers that once the ticket is put into system it cant be erased. The Saturday before Easter Sunday last year proved this wrong: I had gone outside to move my car when I noticed an agent giving me a ticket. A ticket that was warranted, as I had been parked in a 1 hr. zone for about 70 mins. The officer, being a fellow christian said he would erase the ticket because of the holiday. I had mentioned that Id heard such a thing was impossible. I watched in amazement and gratitude as the officer let me see the image of my car and accompanying ticket vanish from the hand held device's screen. "Simple as that?" I asked. "Simple as that!" he replied.
5) What follows is what I consider to be the biggest problem with the system: What happens once an erroneous ticket is issued. I will use the timeline of my recent "no tags" ticket as an example.
After fuming for getting a ticket for a violation that was drummed up out of mid air (Once again my tags were clearly displayed) I looked as to how to contest such a ticket. I called the proper office. Here's what I found:
In the the year 2014 where cars park themselves, planes fly themselves, people surf the web through a pair of digital sunglasses and everything is done by computer, the city of los angeles still decides to use polaroids and written US mail to contest a ticket. Why would this be? Because such a task is so antiquated and annoying, making the driver just shrug his shoulders and pay the fine. Not wanting to deal with the hassle. This is exactly what the city wants! Free Money!!!
6)I can also request a hearing where I have to prove that a city worker was in the wrong. Who is the adjudicator? Another city worker. Now, It is not out of the realm of possibility that I will win this case. However, that is not the issue. The 25$ ticket is a small amount to most drivers. And most would pay rather go through the hassle. We consider the city to be most kind in issuing a ticket in such a small amt. But therein lies the trick: If the ticket were in the sum of 150$ then most people would fight them tooth and nail and in most cases win. But with a lesser amt. we are more apt to pay just to avoid hassle. Multiply 25$ by a few million people...
7) The most frustrating part of this is trying to break into the old boys club and get some real answers. The city needs this money, and they love this money, and they depend on this money. It is easy on the conscience for the violation to be "laundered" through so much bureaucracy that it falls on nobody's conscience. When calling the city to find answers it is never the person who issued the ticket who answers the query., it is a clerk who probably has never met the ticketing agent in his/her life. In that single step alone the onus is lifted from the initial ticketing agent. This is what the credit card companies do. But at least they do not claim to "protect and serve".
8) Lastly, it is naive of me to believe that tickets will ever stop being used for city profits. I am resigned to the fact that this will continue to be a significant revenue stream. I am simply asking for some equity. Human culpability and equity. For any ticket that is issued in deliberate error, or in careless error by an attendant, it should fall on that attendant's shoulders to clean up the mess. I should have been able to email a letter to the city with an accompanying picture of my up to date tags and been cleared. But this leaves the offending ticket officer. Please kindly explain this system to me: If I violate a traffic law I pay. If I am late on a ticket, I pay. If a ticket is unaffordable I have to show records of delinquent bills to prove my destitution. If I contest a ticket, I spend unpaid hours clearing up someone else's mistake, while they are on the clock in the court or municipal building. Where is their culpability? Shouldnt they pay a fine for making a mistake that costs the innocent driver time and money? Nope. All I get is a sorry. "Sorry" seems to serve as currency for the govt in restitution, but somehow our currency as the victim only exists in the form of dollars and time. This is the equivalent of smashing your friends window with a hammer and telling him to clean it up, all with supposed legitimacy.
I just want to be able to drive and park without being constantly on the lookout for these ticket ninjas, who are constantly on the prowl! Looking for one little slip up. Thank you so much City of Los Angeles for sending your brigade out to protect our streets from the Rogue Parkers.