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Parking Immunity? Diplomats Owe NYC $16 Million in Unpaid Parking Tickets.  A Closer Look at the Worst Offenders.

iquantny:

I stumbled upon a glorious data set a few weeks ago, which gives information on all unpaid parking tickets in New York City back to 1998.  Sounds cool right? Whats not so cool is the fact that the City loaded many rows of the data in their twice accidentally.  That meant there were multiple rows with the same ticket number and conflicting outstanding debt amounts.  Though I understand that data errors happen, I don’t understand how the City can keep putting out data sets with no ownership and no effective way to send in fixes.  A city who cares about the usability of its Open Data can do better.    

Anyway, once I cleaned up the duplicate data, the first thing I wondered was which license plate owes the most money in unpaid tickets.  But when I started poking around to see which license plates had the largest outstanding fines, I noticed many of the worst offenders had a familiar pattern. License plates 001THD, 003THD, 118THD and 129THD were all towards the top of the list.   

After some research, I realized that these were diplomatic plates. From there, one thing led to another and I found myself calculating how much each countries diplomats currently owe NYC in outstanding parking tickets. A clickable map of the world showing just that is below:

All in, diplomats owe NYC $16,024,266 in tickets. The top 20 countries in terms of their diplomatic debt are listed below.  Egypt tops the list with about 2 million dollars currently owed.  Nigeria and Indonesia round out the top 3.  

This table begged the question- how did Egypt rack up so many tickets?  A quick look at the worst individual offenders list adds some color: 

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The car with license plate 001THD racked up $109,165 in fines, which have now ballooned into $223,350 after penalties and interest! That is 1,985 unpaid tickets on a single car (including blocking hydrants 126 times). In fact, the top four Egyptian diplomatic plates owe over $724,000!  It’s also interesting to note that an Italian diplomatic plate still owes money for 747 tickets, the top of any European country.

The top two hydrant blockers were two Alabanian diplomatic cars with 001GPD (247 hydrant tickets) and 006GPD (172 hydrant tickets).

Digging around some more, I noticed that most of this debt is owed on tickets before 2002.  

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What happened in 2002?  Mayor Bloomberg came up with a plan where the state department would refuse to reregister cars with large outstanding parking ticket debt. The press release from the city at the time stated:

The Parking Program, which finalizes an agreement reached in principle on August 9, requires Diplomatic and Consular officials to pay future parking tickets and a substantial portion of the parking debt that has accrued since 1997. …

In addition, if Diplomatic and Consular officials do not pay their future parking tickets the State Department will suspend or refuse to renew their registrations and the City will reduce or eliminate the parking spaces assigned to each mission or consulate.

It seems that the program did a remarkable job at reducing unpaid fines, as unpaid tickets dropped by an astounding 95% in one year!  But the whole thing about the officials “paying a substantial portion of parking debt accrued since 1997?” Yeah- that clearly didn’t happen. 

Over the last few years, we’ve started to see the unpaid tickets start to tick back up.  That may be because it takes years to pay… who knows.  But I was wondering who the worst offenders are in the period after the new rules came into effect, post 2002.

It looks like Indonesia has taken over Egypt’s spot on top of the unpaid ticket list, followed by Italy.  Indonesian diplomats owe over $25,000 since those changes took effect.

And what about in 2015?  Who is the diplomatic king of parking tickets? 2015′s winner is Senegal by a long shot, whose diplomats currently owe $15,851 for 2015 tickets alone.  Over all, diplomats owe $185,400 for tickets in 2015.

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The diplomats from Senegal racked up 230 tickets in 2015 including 14 at hydrants, and decided to pay 30% of them, leaving 161 unpaid, more than double any other country.  License plate 0083RDD topped the list for Senegal, with 36 tickets. Note that Senegal’s 30% payment rate is substantially higher than Rawanda, which paid 2% of tickets, and Gambia, which paid 0%.  

The data shows that Bloomberg’s Parking Plan worked wonders, but that there are still those who feel they can ignore the laws of the City they work in, simply because they have immunity.   I’m glad that the Open Data can put a dent in that by bringing to light when regulations are being thwarted by those who have immunity, making our city less safe as a result.

Unpaid Parking Violations found here.
All Parking Violations Tickets found here, here and here.
List of mappings from Country Code on License Plate to Country here.

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