Comment: More options needed for parking ticket fraud

A comment from the Vice President of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, a citizens’ advocacy group for municipal taxpayers.

When a note under your windshield wiper says “Parking Fine,” it’s not complimenting your driving ability.

It’s no laughing matter for municipalities when millions of dollars in unpaid parking tickets go to collection agencies. Most budgets are already stretched and tax increases often exceed salary increases.

Last year in Saanich, where there are no parking meters, total revenue from parking fines was $26,630. Incredibly, over the past four years, 24 tickets worth $1,430 have been collected.

It’s a whole different story in Victoria, although 80% of motorists end up paying their parking fines.

It’s a larger mall, lots of traffic and visitors, metered parking on the street, and dedicated parking ambassadors who can ticket you.

Do the math: Last year — a pandemic year with less traffic — total parking fine revenue was $3.8 million. About $980,000 was sent to collections and 30% of these underage miscreants ended up paying.

That kind of lost revenue would go a long way toward paying for the new $33.7 million No. 1 Fire Station slated to open this year.

The city says it doesn’t expect improvements unless the province or ICBC helps with collection.

But many jurisdictions struggling with unpaid parking fines have successfully tried other innovative solutions. It doesn’t have to be a difficult, dead-end situation.

Halifax recently gained national attention by offering shoppers a way to manage a parking ticket. People can spend $35 at a local business within three hours of parking to have the ticket voided. This is a pilot program this summer designed to help businesses recover from the pandemic.

Saskatoon staff just filed a report on what they call “parking fraudsters” due to 15% of parking tickets going unpaid.

He recommended changing the regulations to allow tickets to be mailed, changing the display and layout of parking tickets to encourage early payment, and reducing the penalty for doing so.

He recommended lobbying the province and SGI, the provincial insurance agency, for legislative changes to restrict the ability of residents to obtain a driver’s license or register a vehicle while they have unpaid fines for unpaid parking tickets. Municipalities in British Columbia have also tried for years to obtain these solutions without success.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the city court had 82,000 unpaid parking tickets, so they offered amnesty to drivers. If you came to City Hall and paid the original amount for your ticket, all subsequent penalties were waived.

Victoria may want to reconsider a proposal – helping food banks – from a resident a few years ago that was turned down. The Food for Fines idea was introduced as a way to cover unpaid parking tickets for those 30 days or more late. Food or a cash donation receipt from a food bank were considered eligible.

Toronto had had enough of repeat offenders and changed its policy. If you have three outstanding tickets after 75 days, they can tow your vehicle. You end up paying for the towing job, not to mention the cost of the ticket(s) and all the time and mental frustration that comes with it.

Consider the approach in Costa Rica years ago where parking enforcement officers carried screwdrivers only for repeat offenders. You only get your license plate back after paying your fine at the town hall.

In several municipalities, motorists can pay their ticket immediately by inserting a credit card into the parking meter terminal.

The thorny issue of unpaid parking tickets has been around forever, and some local politicians are reluctant to take a softer or tougher approach.

A few years ago, the provincial ombudsman developed a 68-page best practices guide for local governments because municipalities were taking varied and unsuccessful approaches. “Fair, accountable, and transparent practices in bylaw enforcement can build citizens’ trust in local government and can save public money…and ultimately promote community harmony,” he said. .

Nobody likes parking tickets.

As a result, residents can go to the nearest shopping center where there is free parking. The business community is suffering because there are not enough parking spaces for customers. Tourists and visitors can swear never to return. One thing is certain: local politicians, town hall and council are receiving a lot of criticism and a public relations nightmare.

The end result is that parking revenue – a major source of much-needed municipal revenue – may plummet.

On the other hand, if the problem of unpaid parking tickets becomes too big and there is no or no proper enforcement, it sends a terrible message to the public.

This undermines the rule of “regulation” and, therefore, the political system.

About Matthew Berkey

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