> “Mr. Wellington’s analysis identified errors the department made in issuing parking summonses. It appears to be a misunderstanding by officers on patrol of a recent, abstruse change in the parking rules. We appreciate Mr. Wellington bringing this anomaly to our attention...
> Thanks to this analysis and the availability of this open data, the department is also taking steps to digitally monitor these types of summonses to ensure that they are being issued correctly.”*
Sure, it's easy to pay lip service to open data and transparency...but I've found for the most part that bureaucracies are generally OK with open data after it's been ingrained in their culture (which is why it is so amazingly easy to get data from Florida -- they have an IT system that is optimized to handle it -- the employees don't mind fulfilling the requests since it's no skin off their back).
Bloomberg got the ball rolling, and hopefully the momentum continues...I'd be happy with NYC agencies tolerating open data as a status quo...Looking forward to the day when bureaucrats and citizens can get to the point where transparency isn't seen as a zero-sum game.
It is easy to give verbal apologies (especially using hedging words like “....recent, abstruse change in the parking rules.” If the police are so confused by abstruse changes in the parking rules, how are normal people supposed to understand and obey them?). Monetary ones are more difficult to come by.
[EDIT: To make it clear, I'm not saying the work of 'iquantny hasn't resulted in positive change. It obviously has. Just that the department's response is, in my opinion, not positive enough.]
An error was identified, communicated, and acted upon as a result of open data. Specifically, it became known that due to inadequate training practices patrol officers were unawares of the change whereas parking enforcement were the only ones trained and therefore were not making the same mistake:
> "When the rule changed in 2009 to allow for certain pedestrian ramps to be blocked by parked vehicles, the department focused training on traffic agents, who write the majority of summonses."
> "Yet, the majority of summonses written for this code violation were written by police officers. As a result, the department sent a training message to all officers clarifying the rule change and has communicated to commanders of precincts with the highest number of summonses, informing them of the issues within their command."
So the issue isn't that police were confused so much as their training wasn't updated because of a system failure (training only traffic agents and not patrol officers).
Further they are taking action to monitor the open data themselves to detect future anomalies themselves:
> "Thanks to this analysis and the availability of this open data, the department is also taking steps to digitally monitor these types of summonses to ensure that they are being issued correctly."
This is a great step forward regardless of whether or not en-mass refund occur.
To me, a refund would be icing on the cake. And perhaps one will happen (hopefully) this post was published today (May 11, 2016) after all.
As an aside, there is also something to be said about the fact citizens should be aware of their own rights and laws. Any citizen could and should have contested wrongly issued tickets.
Money has been taken from citizens by the authorities in an unlawful manner. Money has to be given back. I don't know what more to say about this matter. If I steal 200$ out of your pocket and you find out, my feeling is you would want your money back, not an apology and my heartfelt assurance that it won't happen again...
They unlawfully issued tickets, were made aware that they were unlawful, and don't want to refund the money ???
I must be taking crazy pills for people to think this is ok.
This is the NYPD - the most police-state police force in the country, responsible for such hits as Stop-And-Frisk, Eric Garner, and many other human rights abuses.
You think they'd be so lenient with you if you offered them an apology?
Quick reminder about the title of the article - "The NYPD Was Systematically Ticketing Legally Parked Cars for Millions of Dollars a Year." Systematically.
I can absolutely believe that this happened by accident (it is a pretty subtle rule change), but that doesn't justify pocketing all of the cash it produced.
The very point of the statute of limitations is to limit how much of the present is spent digging up the past.
The owner must submit a Request for Hearing after Judgment form to fight the ticket. If the request for hearing after judgment is granted, the judge will hear the defense to the parking ticket. If the request is not granted, no hearing will be held and the total fine, interest, and penalties will be due.
The thing is, there doesn't seem to be a cheap and automatic way to (a) accurately filter out all incorrect tickets and (b) track the people down who were wrongfully ticketed. (Yes, analyzing the thousands of different parking spots where tickets were issued for their legality is an expensive process - and there's bound to be a very long tail.) So it seems pretty clear to me that attempting a proactive refund would be an expensive waste of money.
Yes, the police are responsible for doing their job right, and that's what they're doing now. It would sure feel great to punish some scapegoat in hindsight, but this is a classic case where it's difficult to pin the blame - remember, it was a systemic problem where one (small) subgroup of officers failed to be properly trained after a rules change.
People who have been wrongfully ticketed should contest the ticket, it's as simple as that.
"Brooklyn’s 70th Precinct seems to have the most cars wrongly ticketed, bringing in over $100,000 in fines a year. The 77th, also in Brooklyn, comes in second:"
That's not an oversight. That's a systematic abuse of the public trust. How about people that didn't know they were wrongfully ticketed and fined? How about people that couldn't take the time off to dispute the ticket? Its extortionate.
I hope the next time you are on the wrong side of a municipal fine you remember you remember your glib words. Its as simple as that.
Anyone that lives in NYC is well aware that, no matter what the commish says, the officers on the ground do whatever they think they can get away with. It's not at all surprising to learn that intentionally wrongful parking tickets are a huge source of revenue for the PD.
With data about exact location of where each ticket was issued, it wouldn't have to be expensive.
I've done the same (got an open container ticket on the boardwalk in coney island, where they sell beer. the cop said you have to drink it within 20ft of the establishment that sold it). Admittedly, in that particular case they dismissed the fine and sent me my check back.
The worst part is that every time this happens, the taxpayers are on the hook. I think nothing will change as long as wrong decisions doesn't hurt the decision-makers. I don't know how to implement this but something has to give. When in doubt, officers should err on the side of not writing tickets.
Unrelated but our police officers need stronger protection from the insanity of things like quotas. Make it immensely profitable for an officer to whistleblow situations where they are required to collect $n in fines or write n tickets. Make it a federal law and take that money ($10MM per incidence per officer sounds like a good start, the point is it has to be high enough that there won't be peer pressure for an officer to "get in line") from the department. If they can't pay, too bad. The municipality/county doesn't deserve a police force.
How much did it cost them to issue tickets and collect that $1.7 million? Do they use the same logic while issuing tickets and collecting fines?
There's been a huge proliferation of laws in the last ~20 years or so which are categorized as Strict Liability. Taxes have always been like this, but lately a lot of new laws have said "follow this or else" full stop.
Since normal everyday citizens are being held to strict liability every day, I see no reason to be so forgiving of officers. I'm not suggesting that they're bad people, or deserve to go to jail for making an honest mistake. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander and if normal folks are being punished this way, so should law enforcement, politicians, etc. Nobody should be exempt, the law is the law.
Supreme Court says otherwise, if you're a cop.
Heien was about meeting 4th Amendment probable cause standards to prosecute a different crime. This is about ticketing people over the non-criminal act out of ignorance. It's like if Heien had been fined over the brake lights even though they were legal.
As is, the NYC statue of limitations will strip most of these people of the right to contest tickets that were given for non-crimes.
However, in this case, returning the money with interest would be somewhat punitive, and that would indeed be appropriate, as it would discourage future carelessness in enforcement and abuse of the citizens of NY.
If you fail to pay all the taxes you owe, you are required to pay penalties. If the government fails to correctly enforce the law and wrongfully fines innocent citizens, why should it not be required to pay penalties?
This is the most basic way to hold government accountable for such carelessness. When a department fails to meet its budget because it did not correctly train its officers in the law, did not properly oversee enforcement, and now has to repay what it wrongfully took, those responsible for the oversight will be replaced with others more competent. As a result, the citizens have a more competent, ethical, accountable, and efficient government.
Wherever did you get the idea that, "Well, as long as you promise not to do it again..." is a sensible solution?
In an argument where the authorities are using the cost of repayment as an "argument" -- that's pretty silly.
Laws change because we learn from experience and over time situations change.
He'd be displaying a fake page, identical in all details, except for the recursion. "You won't believe the one difference in this ..."
In a city where disagreeing with law enforcement's wrong or illegal activity risks violent reaction or death, it is not solely the citizen's obligation to correct law enforcement's mistakes.
Law enforcement tax the citizens to pay professionals to enforce laws. Those professionals have a duty to do their job properly.
A terrible decision
The answer to that question is also the answer to the questions:
* Can you checkout the book of laws out of the library?
* Can you buy the book of laws on Amazon? Can you even afford to buy the book of laws?
Your point about purchasing a paper copy of the legal code is spot on. In my state, I asked my local government workers (clerks, law librarians, etc) where to buy a copy of my state's code. There seems to be only one source and it costs more than 700 USD.
For someone who lives on the opposite side of town from the courthouse, or spends more on rent than a potential law book, reading law on paper can be impossible.
People challenge infractions in court all the time. Theyre not in much danger. There is a process for this that involves courts and sometimes a lawyer.
You're conflating the judicial system with street interactions with the police, where contesting the NYPD is indeed a risky proposition.
In New York City, most infractions are not challengeable in court. Unless you consider the city Finance Department a court or consider its commissioner a judge.
New York has only one, unified judiciary. The mayor and his commissioners are not part of it. The mayor and his commissioners are not judges.
Like any other bureaucracy, if you get a ticket or citation, you're free to contest it. This wasn't a systematic abuse of power -- it was a bureaucratic oversight.
As gohrt points out, this cannot be done. Being aware of the laws that apply to you in the US is far beyond any human capacity.
I would be appalled if people here on HN were applauding a company for apologizing for effectively stealing money and not returning it. What is the difference?
So far a blogger received an email with an apology. That's not much to get excited about.
What's to stop them from carrying on as usual if there are no repercussions and only millions in revenue for them to collect?
A really great response would have been, ”Thanks for contacting us. We realize that we were wrong for issuing these tickets. We will now put in place a program to refund the people who were wrongly issued tickets.”
All I was saying is that there is a strong moral case for people who were wrongly fined in this manner to receive refunds on their fines, and I think the city agency should do that (but almost certainly won't).
The official admits there was an error and defines why it happened. This in itself opens the door for the wrongly ticketed parties to claim a refund, since their is the admission by the city official.
Now, who's going to inform those wrongly-ticketed citizens? Certainly not the city. It will cost more for them to re-analyze, and contact all of those people. They should, but it will not happen.
Great work by the OP! Glad to see NYPD in a positive light.
Slightly OT: I was born and raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and I remember people used to double-park, or do whatever they pleased, and rack up hundreds of dollars (thousands today) in parking tickets, and then bargain the total fine down to a fraction of the fines. It was cheaper than legally paying monthly parking rates!
In Florida, a long-contested issue over red light cameras resulted in a judgement that having their tickets contested in special City Hall hearings, rather than through state traffic laws, was illegal. If a similar case is happening here, they could attempt that lawsuit, and if they win, then attempt their class-action.
You also have to get around statute of limitations and notice of claim limits for new york, not to mention shared liability. Remember: New York City parking violation tickets can be disputed as defective without going to court. You can even request an online hearing! So a court may throw out any argument that a class-action lawsuit might claim that it was unreasonable for _all_ of those people to be unable to file a dispute.
Interestingly, I found this brochure on their website that mentions code 67 (pedestrian ramps), but does not at all mention the exception for ramps in the middle of the street with no sign or marked walkway. It should really have been updated after 2008: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/finance/downloads/pdf/translation...
One can imagine a stronger version of the above in which the agency is asked to find funds within their existing budget to redress the mistake. However, "thieves! they must be fired!" is not the correct response to public servants making an honest mistake (as opposed to dishonest mistakes, of course, but that doesn't seem to be the case at hand).
Anything else is just blowing smoke (EDIT: on the part of the government agencies)
I'm kind of making fun, but they don't want to fix the problem because those tickets are a genuine revenue stream for the city. When the revenue from parking tickets goes down, everyone panics.
I live in NYC. Parking here is so expensive that paying for a parking ticket (if you happen to get caught parking illegally) is cheaper than paying for the parking garage!
A monthly parking garage in my neighborhood (west village, manhattan) can cost $700-800. Parking on the street is not a perfect substitute, but I can get 10-12 parking tickets a month before the cost of parking illegally exceeds the cost of paying for garage space!
Parking is so expensive and hard to find (like half of the area is parking for "resident sticker only") that most people I know simply park in the residential areas and see what happens.
In the end, I finally concluded that it is legal to park across a disabled access spot in the curb unless it's in a crosswalk or otherwise prohibited.
Which is contrary to common sense, IMO... But then, that's probably why they decided to codify it.
Its not contrary to common sense - ramps are needed at crosswalks so people can cross the street. A ramp in the middle of the street, with no crosswalk around, is not needed.
Vehicles that carry wheelchairs often load and unload the wheelchair from the street in the rear of the vehicle. Ramps in the middle of the street help people in wheelchairs to enter and leave such vehicles without having to go all the way to a crosswalk.
After a long while, I got a response back from the responsible agency, which agreed that I was in compliance with the parking rules, and thus they would reduce the fine from $100 to $40. What??
i wanted to fight to the end because it was a sign for me that they half-admitted wrong-doing.
but, as a sheep, i ended up paying. still hate myself for giving in.
The first ticket was issued for parking in resident street parking without a permit. I was actually parked just after the sign delimiting the resident parking area. I photographed where I was parked and sent in an appeal which was accepted.
A month later, I was parked in the same non-resident street parking and I was issued a ticket for failing to pay a parking meter; the number of the meter I supposedly failed to pay was a LONG block and a half away from where I was parked. Again, I submitted an appeal, but this time it was not accepted.
The friend I was visiting when I received these tickets was a producer for a local television news station. She told the story of these two tickets to their investigative reporter who was interested in the story and was going to inquire about it with the Boston PD. Apparently she didn't get anywhere with the story, but Boston PD did stop sending me failure to pay notifications for the fine.
: This non-resident street parking was not metered.
(EDIT: Foot-note formatting)
These are civil fines; no arrest warrant will be issued, but I also doubt that just because BPD stopped sending notices that they agree the ticket was bogus and have deleted it. Far more likely is they just stopped sending notices and the ticket is still active.
I attempted to pay the ticket, it was no longer in the system.
Honestly, if I were a public official reading the comments here, I'd be inclined to just go "Why do I even bother? I explained how, even though the people who hand out most of the parking tickets were educated about the change, many police officers weren't. We'll fix it now."
Sure, rerun the analysis a year or two down the road. If things don't change, that's a story. But this strikes me as a nice use of open data and a reasonable response from the NYPD. You can argue that they should do pro-active refunds but a lot of addresses will have changed and it would be otherwise difficult and expensive. I'm honestly not convinced that's a reasonable expectation.
If I owe my state or county taxes, or otherwise owe money, they will go through all sorts of hoops and efforts to track me down. Why is it reasonable to not expect that same level of effort when they owe me money?
It seems reasonable to me - not being allowed to keep money that isn't yours and that you shouldn't have taken (even by mistake), consider the incentives - writing a huge number of false tickets and then returning the money only to those that are willing to go through the trouble of contesting the ticket.
I'm not opposed to the city making a modest effort to refund money to this subset of individuals. Though if it does so I expect it will be purely because they see it as a good PR play.
Yup, so maybe some harm reduction (returning money) and negative reinforcement (hassle of returning) can help incentivize an improvement in the quality of parking enforcement service. Individual employees would likely have the same level of interest that you've expressed, but department heads would have a lot more incentive to act (especially if there is any departmental rivalry).
> ...many people get off with parking violations...
Is your point that these people would have deserved a ticket in the past or future - so whatever, or are you talking about some sort of municipal level karma balance where individuals are irrelevant?
Pedestrian cutouts are there for a real purpose, namely accessibility for people with disabilities and wheelchairs.
While it sucks for cars to get ticketed, I for one share no compassion with those people blocking cutouts in general, because they are not offering courtesy for those people who require these cutouts to live.
Edit: For those suggesting that the crosswalks in the middle of the block go "nowhere" consider the following. a wheelchair user parks his/her car and exits the car. he/she will have to cross all the way to the ends of the block in order to get out of the street into safety. even it may seem like it's going nowhere, there is a real functional purpose.
(i) Marked crosswalk. That part of a roadway defined by two parallel lines or highlighted by a
pattern of lines (perpendicular, parallel or diagonal used either separately or in combination)
that is intended to guide pedestrians into proper crossing paths.
(ii) Unmarked crosswalk. That part of a roadway, other than a marked crosswalk, which is
included within the extensions of the sidewalk lines between opposite sides of the roadway at
an intersection, provided that (A) the roadway crosses through the intersection rather than
ending at the intersection, and/or (B) all traffic on the opposing roadway is controlled by a
traffic control device.*
Basically it is approved if there are two parallel lines (marked crosswalk) or no parallel lines (unmarked crosswalk) and is NOT a T-intersection or if there is a traffic control device.
Once one reads a number of successful and unsuccessful applications and their interpretation and implementation (including the substantive laws/rules, procedural laws/rules, and administrative court precedents), I think the DOT approval process would be rather clear. These processes are usually extremely verbose and pedantic for this reason. Once again I think lack of access to the law (e.g., lack of access to court decisions ala PACER) is a fundamental contributing cause underlying your claim.
Would this mean that a wheelchair user should plan weeks (months) ahead to google street view every cutout within a 10 block radius of his/her destination and make a request to have it become a DOT approved ramp?
Then I would assume this discussion could take place. Here and now. And we could possibly come to a quick and painless basic common-ground agreement. But alas...
I would assume whatever law, rule or judicial decree required them also described their purpose. I would really need the entire set of such descriptions, preferably in neighboring places also, to even begin that discussion.
> Would this mean that a wheelchair user should ...
These are domain-specific policy questions that really can't be answered yet, by me. (By most people, within reason.) A general plan that's been put forward is that, after the law becomes machine-readable and widely accessible, regulatory compliance like this will become increasingly automated.
A viral video is IMO not very different from having the local news media shame the government into taking the right action. While these videos have helped us reign in the systematic racism and violence of the police here in the US, it's fantastic to see the government acting in such a responsible and effective manner.
My most recent update from Monday: https://plot.ly/~red-bin/6.embed
Pretty fucking proud of that, not gonna lie.
It's also a nice revenue stream and would expose the internal pressures to raise money through ticketing by management and administrators.
And having said that, yes I believe the money should be returned, and probably will.
Or do you not realize that if someone doesn't contest a ticket, they are implicitly acknowledging their guilt?
Or do you think the NYPD can just start giving out city money as they see fit? Note: guilt is decided by the NYC Parking Violations Bureau, within the NYC Finance Department, not by the NYC Police Department.
I challenged my stack of them, and they relented, but refused to actually write me back with how/why this was happening, and how they were upgrading their training.
What gets me, is that I doubt they did a search through their system for all such tickets, and then immediately issued refunds- or put through a software patch on their ticketing system to disallow those tickets at motorcycle meters.
Refunding can't be that hard.
It's very easy to issue statements saying they've solved the problem. Rarely do they actually solve the problem :)
For example, open the 2014 data link  included at the bottom of the post. When I run:
Violation Description >
It's possible there's a bug in the tool or that the violations are encoded using different language, but it's not something that's obvious to me.
Now, if you had described evidence of the specific location your car was at the time of the ticket, and the appeal was still denied, that might be a different story.
I got a ticket for the car being "double parked"; I sent a picture of how it was parked (right next to the curb in a legal spot). It was a rainy day, so you could even see that the car must've been in that spot for a while -- it's not like I moved it there to take a picture.
Later, I got a prewritten appeal denied notice -- it wasn't even specific to double parking, and mentioned none of the evidence I sent.
I also have several friends with similar experiences.
So, please, let's fire them, instead of making improbable excuses.
An example: If you object to the calibration of the SPECS camera (e.g camera's that track you over a longer piece of road to determine your average speed) and the officer responds saying that the radar equipment was properly calibrated, you can have the ticket thrown out as it was not radar equipment that ticketed you and thus proper care wasn't shown during the handling of your appeal.
However, my scenario is pretty straightforward. I'm guessing anything more complex is going to get denied. You can always appear in front of a judge.
The problem is that regardless of how angry petty bullshit injustices like this make me, it is simply not worth my time to go fight a parking ticket (it was like $100 or something) in person. Same thing for hiring a lawyer -- it's cheaper to just pay. Plus, I imagine they have the final word anyway and I'm quite disillusioned with the fairness of their whole "trial" thing.
I suspect this is the case for many/most people who get these tickets, and probably a large part of the reason that they can get away with it. It's disgusting but true, and besides someone exposing the scam with data like this, I'm not sure what else I could've done.
That makes more sense when you realize that final appeals from these adjudicators' decisions go to the director of the agency.
1. The agency reviews it.
2. An "independent" ALJ reviews it.
2a. Sometimes the head of the agency can and will review it.
3. * A superior court commissioner (traffic commissioner) reviews it. *
4. A superior court judge (a "real judge") reviews it.
#. Courts of appeals do NOT review these cases.
#. Supreme Court does NOT review the cases.
You got to 3 but you likely never actually saw a judge. A hearing by a "real judge" costs a hell of a lot more than $25 in California.
It is not just an issue of her name appearing on the paperwork. My testimony, as well as the parking department's, was made directly to her, and I presented my evidence to her as well.
You can check for yourself that it costs $25 to appeal a ticket in Alameda County Superior Court: http://www.alameda.courts.ca.gov/Pages.aspx/How-to-appeal-yo...
Edit: I am willing to believe that you don't necessarily see a Judge if you file an appeal, but I definitely did myself.
EDIT: Sorry, my point there was - as more things like this happen we should see increased engagement from orgs.
This article doesn't surprise me: where the recent swath of internet companies seem to extoll individual agency/ownership, nationalised companies seem to preach the exact opposite - a problem is never the individual's responsibility and people seem perfectly happy to ship a borken status quo. As such, ludicrous oversights like this are a regular occurrence rather than a gross intolerable negligence.
This is not even yet mentioning how awful the UX is for the customer who has to interface with these institutions.
While it may be very easy to discard my point as rife with cliches, it's worth noting that we have become very spoilt by ruthlessly frictionless (yet equally effective) customer-facing tech products. The opportunities to streamline processes and save time and money for state-owned interfaces (both online and offline). As an example, I recently had to queue in a hospital with my sick mother for an hour, to be told that that individual couldn't process our particular issue and that we would have to join the back of the adjacent queue (not there was zero signposting whatsoever). This is one example and not a criticism on healthcare, but what happened to service-driven processes?
Instead we, the public, have to live with the dire reality of inefficient (and increasinly apparently indifferent) government services as the gap between private and state run services continues to expand as we grow increasingly disenfranchised.
S 1202. Stopping, standing or parking prohibited in specified places.
1. Stop, stand or park a vehicle:
d. On a cross walk;
2. Stand or park a vehicle, whether occupied or not, except
momentarily to pick up or discharge a passenger or passengers:
b. Within twenty feet of a cross walk at an intersection, unless a
different distance is indicated by official signs, markings or parking
S 110. Crosswalk.
(a) That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the
connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of
the highway between the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, between
the edges of the traversable roadway.
(b) Any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere
distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings
on the surface.
Expanded & Explicit Translated Headline -- "Some NYPD Officers Were Cutting Corners in a Profession Where Cutting Corners is a Relatively Big Deal. Some People With Computers Did a Fancy Search and Now Those Cops Are Rightfully Getting in Trouble and the Shit Is Stopping"