Friday, February 1, 2008

Common problem

I thought I was an early riser. I had this email in my inbox this morning, sent at 0340 hours:

"Tom, thanks for all the work you and your team does for Lincoln!! My question is, that i see so so many vehicles with expired stickers on the plates. Can you folks ticket the cars in parking lots? Is it worth it for me to call you folks if i see one in a parking lot of a grocery store or driving down the street? Thanks for your time and have a great day."
I hear this a lot, along with complaints about speeders, bad parking around schools, poor lawn mowing etiquette, not to mention inconsiderate leaf blowing. When you're up to your ears in what seem like significant issues, it's sometimes amusing to think about what's getting under the skin of a fellow citizen looking for a police crackdown on garage sale signs.

This morning's emailer shouldn't be lumped into that category though. Give the guy a break: he's not aware of the impracticality of vectoring patrol cars to intercepts while the radio buzzes with rolling reports of expired registration stickers. He simply sees a problem, and wants to know how he could help. Unfortunately, the best help he can provide right now is to grit his teeth and be patient. Here's my response.

"We can't ticket them in private parking lots, just on the public street. Thousands upon thousands are issued every year. It's one of our most common tickets. I don't have the 2007 data posted yet, but in 2006, the total was 15,937. It really isn't practical for us to encourage people to call in, because we just don't have enough officers to dispatch them across their beat in search of moving cars with expired plates. I think you just have to accept the fact that for the most part, they will all get their citation eventually if they run on expired tags for very long. Thanks for the good words."
I hope that didn't sound rude or unresponsive, because I really empathize with this guy. It's one of my pet peeves, too, because those improperly registered vehicles are tax dollars uncollected. The City is indeed full of them, just as the correspondent notes. Based on the number that we cite, I would estimate that close to 5% of the vehicles in Lincoln are improperly registered at any given time. Every one of those is tax revenue delayed, and many represent completely uncollected tax--the owners have made an art form of switching plates, faking intransit tags, and coming up with various schemes for avoiding the personal property tax, sales tax, wheel tax, and license plate fee. A healthy subset of those fictitious and expired plate drivers have no insurance, either.

27 comments:

PrairieDog said...

I tend to turn my head like the RCA dog when I hear about individuals who rant about how a traffic stop was weak based on their probable cause. This is most noticiable when there is a cache of marijuana found inside vehicles, a weapon is seized, a drunk driver or even a warrant. While expired tags are a plague I can only assume that a greater number of the same can only give your officers another reason to stop the vehicle. Finding such illegal activity would be only a large bonus to an officer who remains active.

Anonymous said...

Why does LPD not have internal affairs information on the LPD homepage? I HAVE LEFT OUT TYPOS TODAY. It appeared as spelling errors yesterday but am less nervous now.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a job for the Nebraska Department of Revenue! They could have a car with a revenue agent drive around and use one of these to find cars with expired tags. When they find one, they could call a wrecker to tow and impound it for non-payment of taxes, then sell it at auction.

Maybe as a side benefit, they could be linked to the stolen car database, and when they find one, the system would notify your dispatcher of that event and location by automated means.

Well, it's just an idea. Not a cheap one initially, but I think it would actually be a money-maker for the NDORev and wouldn't eat up any of LPDs resources (other than responding to the stolen car calls).

Anonymous said...

I talked with the internal affairs investigator Mr. Marti.
MR. Marti explained that it is more common that a person calls and is concerned about drivers who do NOT get stopped in a traffic violation rather than a person like myself that gets detained on a traffic violation. I had received a warning ticket for violating a stop sign. A warning is not something I normally would be contacting internal affairs about. But this issue is about two three things.
1. Officer judgment
2. 4th and 14th amendments
3. LPD'S record of warnings

First LPD does not maintain records of violations that result in warnings. So my name would not show I have this written warning.
Second, those lawfully within the country, are entitled to use the public highways, have a right to free passage without interruption. And beings I was subject to the inconvenience and indignity of a police car with flashing lights on a busy street drawing looks and attention from passers by, this stop became more in my mind than a misjudgment.
Third, Officer judgment.
Our police officers must make observations and judgments on a split second notice. I understand the officer used good judgment in this stop. How? He asked me if I knew a stop sign was at the corner of 19th and Pst. I did not burden him by explaining that I have known that sign for 45 years but did tell him yes I knew the sign was at that location and that is why I stopped at it for at least twelve seconeds. Affirming the improper decision to detain me while "checking things out" (I guess he thought he was at the library?)he supported that it was unknown if I violated the sign. Further the Officer says,I had "passed in front of the officer in a FAST fashion. So you see, he said I passed in front of him in a fast fashion. He did not see a stop violation. He seen a car pass in front of him, in a FAST fashion.
In summery here is my resolve. 1.Never drive in the path of the police.2. Always have the dash cam on and recording in the car.(no more he said she said crap) and
3. If I am at a right turn on red, and I see a police cruiser in my mirror. I will wait for the green. (and so will he/she)
All part of being passive aggressive.

Tom Casady said...

Anonymous 8:16-

"Contact us" is front-and-center on our home page, and I think the number for Internal Affairs is pretty easy to find if you take that link to the directory.

Anonymous 9:13-

The automated license plate scanning systems are awesome. Please send cash. I want one. They are being used quite effectively in several agencies around the country.

Anonymous 9:28-

Sounds like the officer thought you had run the stop sign, pulled you over, heard your explanation, reconsidered his perception, and decided not to issue you an official citation. Wow, that impresses me. First, I like the fact that the officer is conducting some self-initiated traffic enforcement, and second, when you're wrong or think you might be wrong, you should always reconsider your position and be open to changing your mind.

When you stop 50,000 cars a year, there are going to be a few mistakes. If you demand perfection, we'll have to find someone other than human beings to serve as police officers. You should expect such errors to be rather rare, and to be corrected when noted.

Have a look at the aerial photo. The stop sign at 19th and P for northbound traffic sits over 30 ft. back from the curbline. I can see how it might appear to be a violation, when in fact the motorist had stopped behind the sign, as required.

Anonymous said...

"The automated license plate scanning systems are awesome. Please send cash. I want one. They are being used quite effectively in several agencies around the country."

I agree, LPD should have one. Let's see, it looks like about $20K per installed unit. Compared to some of the school bond issues they try to guilt-trip on the property-tax-paying voters (and, much more easily, on the non-taxpaying voters), that's just chump change. Get a bond floated for this, and it's got my vote.

By the way, how much tax money is the city government spending on that "arena study"? You know, the one that will allegedly determine if we should redundantly duplicate the Qwest arena one hour from that existing facility, but by a smaller airport that (unlike Omaha's airport) has few non-stop flights to most of the nation's largest metro areas. Fly into Omaha, then drive to Lincoln's arena, or just play at Qwest, hmm, that's a tough choice.

Looks like there's a few pieces of useful law enforcement gear not being bought with that arena study money, but maybe that's just my perspective on things.

Wow.... said...

Let's see, this person got a warning for a traffic infraction, and is contacting IA? He is upset because his name is NOT kept on file and his "free passage" was interupted? I guess at least, he must have had a valid registration. I sure hope no one uses a leaf blower near HIS yard.

Anonymous said...

On the "What goes around comes around" vote regarding expired plates.... when I was in college and broke, I managed to drive around from the end of February until June with expired plates without getting pulled over. Then, I got two tickets within 18 hours. So yes... these things do catch up with you. AND I got new plates the next day.

Anonymous said...

Chief,
In your blog you say that you cannot ticket vehicles on private property. I have seen first hand LPD Officers write tickets for expired tags on private property. I have called LPD Dispatch and they confirmed that they are able to do this due to a new law that was passed about two years ago. I have even called vehicles in for expired tags at the Mall and watched the Officer or Parking Enforcement Officer slap an Official Citation on the offenders window. I do know however that LPD cannot write normal traffic tickets such as running a stop sign or speeding. Is this all correct or have I missed something?

Tom Casady said...

Anonymous 2:13--

You are correct, and I stand corrected. My response is not quite right. Although municipal code 10.08.010 states:

"It shall be unlawful for any person to park or operate any motor vehicle upon any street or
public way
within the city without having registered it as provided by the laws of the State of Nebraska"


But the same ordinance also creates a "rebuttable presumption" that a vehicle that's been here for more than 30 days (even if parked on private property), is indeed being driven or parked on the public streets, and therefore is subject to the requirement for registration. Thus, we can cite a vehicle for improper registration even when it is on private property, if there is some indication that it's been hanging around our city for 30 days or more.

What we can't do is this: find enough police officers to encourage well-meaning citizens to call us to report a car in the grocery store lot with tags that expired in December, or call us on their cell phone to report that they are following such a car and dispatch an officer to try to intercept the evil-doer.

We can probably handle the occassional call of such a nature, but if that cat gets very far out of the bag, we'd be deluged in short order, I suspect. I should have been more clear.

Anonymous said...

We do all have "our things" that bother us and human nature makes us want someone to right the wrong we see. Unfortunately, the police can't be everwhere (they could be in more places if they were fully staffed, but that's another comment.)
Regarding expired tags; hit'em in the pocketbook by adding a sizable daily fine for not getting your taxes and plates taken care of in a timely manner. Maybe a 10 day grace period and then it's $10 per day for each day you're late. Can't pay it, surrender your vehicle until you can. We all know when our plates expire, we get a post card notifying us when we need to renew our plates and how much. Maybe after the plates are expired for say 90 days the police can impound your vehicle. Where does the extra income go...half for more police officers and half for schools.

Anonymous said...

I contacted INT AFFRS because I did NOT want the rcord stored and am GLAD, not upset that it is NOT.
Stop runner.

Anonymous said...

Back to expired plates. Being a previous rural native, getting an expired license ticket 3 days into the next month is a little overboard, but that extra $100.00 I paid, I hope benefited someone. I learned a lesson, city police sure are quick to react.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/user/BARBREAK

Is where you will find a video of the 19th and P stop sign. Your aerial photo is moot in this instance.

Anonymous said...

License Plate Recognition (LPR) is the up and coming tech. item for finding expired plates, stolen vehicles and other issues with motor vehicles. LPR cost about 20k and is showing great benefits on the street, it can scan 4 directions and capture vehicle and plates while moving. Cars are already a mobile office so a dedicated vehicle would be nice, but again 20k for the equipment than a person to do just this job plus a dedicated vehicle? Maybe with the amount of outstanding registrations, and stolen plates etc. it might be worth it, but do the tax payers and budgets always understand? I would gladly chip in 10 dollars to start a fund towards the effort for equipment, but the 39k payday for an officer would have to be on the city.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I know that supposedly the "stop runner" contacted Internal Affairs because he was "glad" he got stopped. As an officer's wife, I know how horrible it feels for my husband when he gets a complaint. He takes his job very seriously, as do all LPD officers. I don't know one officer who goes out with the intention of getting a complaint. I encourage all of you "complainers" to call LPD and arrange a ride-along with one of LPD's finest. Go with them and see the kinds of things they deal with every day. 12-year-olds telling them to "f"-off, drunk transients threatening them and their families, and people who's parents apparently didn't teach them how to show respect. It's really sad. I know it's been said before, but these men and women are out there working their tails off in the elements, risking their lives, trying their best to make our city safer. So, how about instead of picking up the phone or emailing to complain, send a note of thanks. Because I know that it would be nice for them to hear something positive for once. :)

Anonymous said...

Yo, Stop Runner. Showing the City Attorney the Ticket and Proof that you registered the Vehicle within 10 days of receiving the Citation will get the ticket dismissed. But if you have $100 less to spend on gas, I'm good.

Anonymous said...

A post says "call LPD and arrange a ride-along with one of LPD's finest.
I have taken the LPD citizens academy and did ride along. Also the LPD legal advisor made it very clear that officers MUST have PC, thats probable cause to make a stop. PC should not be based on guess work or assumptions. At least that is what I understand. Also my contact with IA was to inquire about the warning and see if it is documented. When I learned it was not, most of the conversation was spent finding the GOOD things that the officer did. I did not mention that I had to roll down my window after just getting the car washed did I? Well you reopened the topic so there it is. Also see the posts of the intersection and Drunk driver video at.
http://www.youtube.com/user/BARBREAK

Anonymous said...

Stop Runner - It appears that your paranoia (dash cams!? Yikes) is exceeded only by your inability to spell or put together a sentence. Next time you are stopped for 12 seconds (?) at a stop sign, make better use of the time...hmmmm, how about cracking open a book?

Anonymous said...

Stoprunner..you've certainly made yourself popular. I'd like to know how you think the 4th and 14th Ammendment applies to your situation. 4th is search and seizure - you were never searched nor was your vehicle, at least not that you mentioned. You were reasonably detained because the officer, in good faith, if you want to go there, thought you committed a traffic violation. I doubt you were on the traffic stop an unreasonable amount of time either. My guess is with regard to the 14th you were referring to due process, in which case, no legal action was taken against you and as already stated the officer had a right to detain you based on the belief that you violated a traffic law. While I am a fairly liberal thinker, it concerns me how much people think the constitution stretches to 'protect' their 'rights' and the sense of entitlement many people think they have today. Nice try though Jim.

Anonymous said...

To finish out this wonderful journey I would like to say that the blogs are a way for simple minded people like myself to have a say in matters that really are of little or no importance. I see you also support that theory with your February 5, 2008 1:56 AM post. And you can see what "cautious" people do to stay out of the way of those with huge egos. "Paranoia" is a narrow way to think of it. As for the spelling, I am not overly concerned. You point out my spelling errors, I will guess, because your own intelligence is a bit challenged and you get a boost to your self esteem. Good for you if I have helped your day in some odd way.

waaaaaa said...

Oooooh, I'm rubber and you're glue......

Anonymous said...

1. golar 1 up, 1 down

A man like no other man. The best of the best with honors

I wish I was a Golar.

Tom Casady said...

This is really getting ridiculous, so, unless someone posts a comment that is both on topic and unusually erudite, consider this thread closed by the moderator!

alvo said...

I know someone who had expired out of state plates and they received two tickets, two days in a row. This occurred at the Links apartment complex. I thought they couldn't ticket cars in private parking lots...

Tom Casady said...

alvo-

Lincoln's municipal ordinance was changed several years ago to allow enforcement on private property. Those tickets get expensive pretty quickly, so there is an incentive to pay the tax and fees, rather than continued fines.

WFMaier said...

Not a happy camper here. Retired (no pension) only SSI and a disabled veteran to boot, so am on a fixed income now. Didn't have the 'extra' $315.00 to renew registration on my car last month, but on 9-30-2011 received my disability check. On 10-1-2011 got pulled over 'in a parking lot. Had just donated clothing to Goodwill, and a city cop (female named 'Hamm') gives me a $73.00 ticket. Registration expired 8-31-2011. She could have given me a warning, I told her I was going on Monday to pay the exorbitant renewal fee and that I did not have the money last month. Between those comments and her seeing my bumper sticker against 'Obama" she 'chose' to give me a ticket. What a liberal and what a ripoff. Grandmother of 4.