Back home, there was a little town that had a little stretch of the Interstate that would go out during rush hour and ticket cars for driving underneath the minimum speed limit. the tickets were junk because the law also has a “reasonable and prudent” standard, but a lot of people would pay the fine just to avoid having to show up in court. It stopped at some point, though I am not sure by what mechanism it was stopped.

And with that, where better to find cars to ticket for inspection violations than a repair shop:

Bruce Redwine had seen enough. After years of watching a Fairfax County parking enforcement officer slap tickets on his customers’ cars for expired tags or inspection stickers, usually as the cars were awaiting state inspection or repair at his Chantilly shop, he snatched the latest ticket out of Officer Jacquelyn D. Hogue’s hand and added some profane commentary on top. {…}

They don’t understand why Fairfax police have zealously sought to enforce laws on expired tags or inspections, mainly on drivers who are making the effort to get their cars into compliance, while on private property. Hogue’s appearance in the industrial park often set off a scramble to hide customers’ cars inside the shops, the shop owners said.

“They’re harassing the small businesses trying to make it in this tough economy,” said Ray Barrera of A&H Equipment Repair. He estimated that his customers’ vehicles had been hit with $60,000 worth of fines and fees over the past six years.

Fairfax police said they are only on the property because of a letter issued by Mariah’s property management firm in 2009, specifically granting police permission to enforce county traffic, parking and towing ordinances.


Revenue-hungry Fairfax County is thinking about expanding the use of volunteers to write parking tickets after a five-year decline in the number of citations issued and amount of revenue collected.

The Board of Supervisors’ auditor of the board made the recommendation in a draft report that found citations had declined about 16 percent over a five-year period. Revenue fell about 5 percent despite a boost in the amount of parking fines and expanding the number of parking ordinances, the audit says.

To beef up collections, county auditors recommended that Fairfax follow other jurisdictions that have created special units of volunteers to enforce parking violations. Supervisor John W. Foust (D-Dranesville), who heads the audit committee, said he would forward the recommendations to the full board.

The worst thing of this sort to happen to me involved the former complex I lived in with my ex-roommate Karl. On New Years Day, Karl woke up to find his car missing. It seemed unlikely that someone would steal his decent but nothing-special car. He wondered if there had been some mistake, so he called the tow company on the sign in the lot and sure enough, they’d towed it. As it happened, his registration had expired with December. He asked if they were just going from car-to-car looking for expired tags. While that seemed aggravating, the truth was infuriating. No, they said, the apartment managers keep a running list and as a part of their towing contract turn over a list at the beginning of every month. As best as we could determine, the apartment complex got money from the towing company, which got money from the county.

When confronted, the apartment complex was entirely unapologetic. They basically said, “Well, you should have renewed your tags on time, shouldn’t you?”

The same is technically true of those who go to Redwin’s shop after Inspection has required. They could avoid all of this by crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s and taking care of everything on time.

The question is, though, what is the goal supposed to be here? The goal is to get people to pay for their registration and/or have their cars inspected as required by law. There are multiple ways to go about this, and consequences do have to include ticketing, fining, and at some point towing.

What the three stories have in common is belying the more powerful motivation of people trying to extract as much money as possible from people to feed the system. Whatever, system, really: Private apartment complex, private towing company, county coffers, state coffers, and individual agents whose job it is to meet their quotas management mandated goals. Which leads to some perverse incentives.

There is really no excuse to target people trying to correct their inspection situation because they are an easy target. To the extent that widespread delinquency is a problem, it makes sense to add on a general fine for late registration or inspection. I’m honestly really surprised when a state doesn’t. Back home, there is no special charge for delinquency, but whenever you do register while delinquent you are registering retroactively to prevent you from benefiting from your own lapse. Here, they don’t even do that, which is in my view excessively generous.

I don’t know what’s the case in Fairfax County and/or Virginia, and I’m honestly not sure it matters because it wouldn’t surprise me even a little bit if they got more money for delinquency and then more-more money for tickets. Fairfax County – in addition to not being a very right-wing place – has gotten a windfall from escalating property values and property taxes, but here they are. More generally, there just doesn’t seem to be much relationship between anti-tax sentiment and creative revenue-generation. I would prefer services be paid for mostly out of taxes and fair fines, of course. In part because the fines are most specifically what pays the salary of those who think its a good and fair idea to go to inspection stations to ticket people.

Category: Statehouse

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15 Responses to Peons & Petty Bureaucrats

  1. fillyjonk says:

    I guess the world runs on kickbacks, is the take-home lesson, at least from that apartment complex story.

    I suppose it’s fully legal and above board but it still feels slimy to me. And I say that as someone who always has her registration renewed on time and the like.

  2. Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

    the apartment complex was entirely unapologetic

    That would be worth holding the cost of the tow out of my rent check.

  3. Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

    Also, I think you are channeling Kazzy by being overly snarky Over There in your criticism of Saul DeGraw.

    • trumwill says:

      By calling his “punishing poor people for being poor” comment an eye-roller? I… think that’s fair. My eyes might have literally rolled. Also, I technically responded to Rod and Richard.

      I will grant it is odd that a few people responded in such a way that in the comment section of my own post about fines being used in a jackass way that I found myself defending fines.

      • Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

        I technically responded to Rod and Richard.

        Yes but it was obvious that you were referring to Saul.

        Anyway, after reading his post Over There on Back to the Future, I am withdrawing my previous comment. He is a Grade-A Asshole, and deserves all the ridicule and scorn he gets.

        • trumwill says:

          Truth be told, when Saul made his comment I wasn’t actually going to say anything. He gets a lot of pushback on whatever he says. But when other started joining in, I wanted to register my eyeroll.

        • Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:


          But in all seriousness, BTTF (I) was a GREAT movie. Its sequel was heavily hyped and came out four years later. Since the sequel was set on October 21, 2015, why WOULDN’T it be a big deal? Just to see what came true and what didn’t? And I’m say this as someone who saw BTTF2 only once, wasn’t that impressed, and never saw BTTF3.

        • trumwill says:

          It seemed like a weird example from which to make his case.

          I watched the second (again) on 10/21. I watched the first (again) today. Tomorrow I hope to watch the third, for the first time.

  4. Dand says:

    Uncle Steve showed up in the comment section Over There, does he have a google alert set so he can show up in the comment section of every blog post anywhere that talks about immigration? And is that why you call him “uncle Steve”?

    • trumwill says:

      I can’t fully remember how the Uncle Steve thing started. I think we had nicknames for some other people (Roissy, for one) and it was an extension of that? The name was derived because he reminds me of that uncle with some interesting ideas that are often combined with things that make you cringe.

      Avoiding people looking for his name was a motivation.

      Not sure how he found Dodds’s post. Google Alert sounds reasonable, though I don’t think that’s enough. Maybe he’s looking for immigration plus Coulter plus Trump?

      For those wondering where Uncle Steve commented, it’s here and below.

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