Given the current economic condition of the United States, as well as most of the world, coming up with new ways to generate public revenue (i.e. taxes) has become an ever increasingly difficult task. What we find is that the powers that be have come up with a “not so new” way of bringing in some more money for the government while saving face with the public over taxes.
It was just earlier this month that Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, announced he would not be raising taxes later this year. This was very welcomed by the city but little did they know that the mayor had an old trick up his sleeve; by substituting tax revenue increases with traffic violations. Fair? Hardly most would say.
This isn’t the first time something like this has ever happened in New York City however. In 2002 the city brought in over $380 million in parking fines alone. This year the mayor has proposed in his budget an increase of $5 million in parking ticket revenue; compared to that of $513 million last year. If you were to say on average a parking ticket being $80, that’s almost 6.5 million parking tickets annually. That’s A LOT of parking tickets! Click here to check out the full article on The New York Times website.
One main area of concern over this topic in recent years has been the installation of red light traffic cameras. What a genius idea to put video cameras up on traffic lights to catch all the people who run red lights. Is this an ethical way of bringing in revenue though? Many cases have been brought to court for this reason. It’s one thing to get caught and ticketed by a real life police officer, but to get a letter in the mail with a $100 ticket for running a red light? Many believe this to be nothing more than a revenue generator for the government and it very well could be.
A recent study shows that while right angle collisions have been slightly reduced after the installation of red light cameras in cities, the increase in rear-end collisions has gone up significantly. Here’s a video link to a news report done on the topic out in Las Angeles, CA. This leads one to believe that our local government and law enforcement officials care more about revenues than public safety (Garret, 2009). How much of that blame can really be put on the police?
Research that has been conducted on drug related asset seizures has shown that when police have the opportunity to retain assets confiscated at drug related crime scenes the fraction of drug arrests to total arrests went up by almost 20 percent. This would also lead one to believe that the police are looking for creative ways to bring in more money, but wait; in many cases the parent governmental organization was allowed to keep a portion of the seizures (Garrett, 2009). Looks like the government is at it again.
In conducting more research one would find that there is plenty of evidence out there that supports traffic violations and drug arrests as being nothing more than a means of generating revenue for governments and law enforcement agencies. So next time you receive a traffic ticket or have your secret stash confiscated by the DEA, just remember you’re doing your part to help keep taxes low.
Dywer, J. (2012, Feb 2). In City Finances, a Subtle Star, Uncredited. Retrieved Feb 8,
2012 from The New York Times:
Issuance of Traffic Tickets. The Journal Of Law & Economics, 5271.