Monday, October 5, 2009

Many violations

Friday’s post about motor vehicle registration has a back story. I spent a good part of the Wednesday morning looking into this case. When a State senator’s office contacts you about a constituent who has complained concerning lax law enforcement by your department, you tend to do that. Officer Adams had done a quite competent investigation of the lone complaint we had received, and I wanted the Senator to have the “rest of the story.”

In doing so, I collected some data to demonstrate to the Senator that we are hardly shy about citing people for improper registration. In 2008, we issued 14,784 official citations and 5,094 warning citations for registration violations. The warnings generally went to folks who were less than a month overdue on a renewal. The total of nearly 20,000 citations is a whopping number, but I can’t imagine that we actually caught anywhere close to half the violators. My estimate is that at any given time, around 10-15% of all the vehicles in Lancaster County (with a population of about 275,000) are improperly registered.

Each of those violations represents wheel tax, personal property tax, and in some cases sales tax that would either be unpaid entirely or at least delayed. In many cases, cheaters with otherwise legitimate plates are either registering their vehicles in another State where there is a lower vehicle tax, or in another Nebraska County, in order to avoid Lincoln’s $49 wheel tax. We have a few local businesses who have a system whereby their vehicles are registered at business addresses just outside the City limits, yet their fleet lives and works primarily in the City. They avoid City wheel tax by registering vehicles at a rural Lancaster County address.

These cases can be a little complicated because people will lie through their teeth. They tell you they just bought the car, when in fact they are well beyond the 30-day period the law gives you to register a vehicle after purchase. They dummy-up a new bill of sale every few weeks. They tell you the car belongs to their son, who is on active duty in the military and exempt, when in fact it’s their daily driver. They tell you that the pickup is really their farm truck from Burwell, and that it is just here in Lincoln for a couple months. They tell you that they have a vacation home in South Dakota, and that's where they normally keep the RV that's in the driveway. They tell you that they just moved to Lincoln, and will change the registration from Dawson County as soon as it expires, when in fact they have no intention of doing so and have already renewed it twice. They tell you that the car belongs to dear old dad back in Des Moines; they've just borrowed it for a few weeks while they save up money to get the transmission fixed on their own car. Some of these things are easily checked out, others are not--and would require considerable research or weeks of regular surveillance to disprove.

Some people who consider themselves to be upstanding and law-abiding will rail about criminals out one corner of their mouth, complain about their taxes out the other, and all the while think nothing of cheating on their income tax and lying about the tax situs of their motor vehicle to save $50. They normally have plenty of money, by the way.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, it's only "ok" to steal and lie if you're doing it to the "tax man". Of course, I wonder if these scofflaws paid their fair share, how much lower these taxes would be for the rest of us? That, or if they weren't, perhaps some of those roads we all like to complain about never getting fixed "for all of the taxes we pay" might actually get repaired/rebuilt. Ironically, as you stated, it's probably those who can most easily afford to "pay their share" who find ways to work around it. One example comes to mind in the county treasurer out west who was falsifying registration documents for her family.

I wonder if LPD set up a "crackdown" like OPD did a year or two ago, how many people really would get caught...I bet it would be more than you think, and there would probably be some surprising names on the list...

Trevor Brass said...

Perhaps the tax burden shall be reduced to decrease the incentive to dodge registration, or at least harmonize with the immediate jurisdictions? But this question is one of a legislator's scope.

I bet many of such folks are all too happy to support "tough on crime" measures while attributing their own faults to external factors such as the alignmnet of the planets.

Anonymous said...

Chief,

I have a question regarding your previous post where you wrote if the vehicle wasn't in the Lincoln 182.5 days it could be registered in the non residents home state.
Doesn't state law require every non resident who is present in the state over 30 days to register their vehicle the same way a resident Nebraskan does (60-366)?
The situs issue applies to where in the state the motorist registers his car.

I realize this is difficult to enforce especially when the owner does travel and maintain residence in another state. But as you mention in this post, the most honest people in the world will lie to a police officer, although I don't believe that was the case here.

Great blog site by the way....

Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of over hearing a conversation between two middle aged women who were picking up their children from daycare. One of them had purchased a $ 35,000.00 Yukon and was complaining to the other about affording the sales tax. The one women was just telling her to change the intransits and it would buy her a few weeks. That's what she did, so she said.
These women were all dolled up in their expensive clothes and makeup acting like their s#*t doesn't stink.
Had to roll my eyes and walk away in my blue jeans and t shirt to my mid 90's truck that is paid for and registered. I was appreciating the fact that I am not in debt and not trying to be something that I am not.

Tom Casady said...

10:31-

Yes, but you must also read the very last sentence of 60-366, and also 60-367. I think the issue is whether he is a resident of Nebraska or a resident of Minnesota. I'd have to confer with lawyers on this, but I think the same general principal would apply: in which State does he "live" the greater portion of the year?

Anonymous said...

14,784 official citations in 2008, 5,094 warning citations. That's a lot of police time spent on non violent crime, could this be passed to another agency to followup the revenue tax evasion? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Sorry this is totally unrelated but I saw this article on a new GM police cruiser. I figured you might be interested.

http://autos.aol.com/article/chevy-caprice-police-car?icid=main|htmlws-sb|dl4|link4|http%3A%2F%2Fautos.aol.com%2Farticle%2Fchevy-caprice-police-car#

Steve said...

I doubt if you would find more than one or two percent of the population that, even in their own minds, are 100% ethical, moral, legal, or whatever you want to call it. People know when they've done wrong; they just rationalize it to themselves as justified for one reason or another. At least, some of them do. Others just plain don't give a damn. I'm not including myself in that one or two percent, but at least I'm willing to admit it.

Anonymous said...

The blog is becoming lame and boring!

Anonymous said...

Chief,

A few weeks ago, you had a post about an automated license plate camera or something like that - 1 or 2 of which I thought LPD was going to purchase.

Any updates to that and whether it could have an impact on this enforcement - or is it more for looking for plates connected to a warrant / Amber alert etc?

Thanks

Grundle King said...

http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/05/gm-revives-chevrolet-caprice-police-car/

Another link on the Caprice cruiser.

Anonymous said...

If you take it one step further, should an owner plate a car in one county year 2 when in years 1 and 3 you might be a few days on the other side of 1/2?

I would rather pay EXTRA to plate my vehicles in my farm county. It is pride in where I am from and my "country" neighbors. It has nothing to do with cost.

(I once even tried to get custom plates ##-XXX just to make it simple.)

Trust me, I spend more than $50 in gas and time visiting multiple court houses chasing the wishes of each county's sherrifs - everyone thinks your car should be plated in their county!!

Anonymous said...

Is there any way in the case where a vehicle spends time in 2 or more NE counties to simply pay the extra Lancaster wheel tax seperate from the 2 county plates?

Tom Casady said...

9:59-

Yes, the ALPR will be able to locate expired plates--at light speed.

2:18/2:34-

Well,the law's pretty clear: it has to be registered in the county where the vehicle has tax situs--the place it spends the majority of it's time. I think lots of people who hail from Gosper County would like to keep a 63-county plate on the back of their pickup after they've moved to Lincoln or Omaha, but you can't lawfully do so.

Anonymous said...

Chief,

Will ALPR be able to alert the operating officer to vehicles that don't have valid liability insurance on file with the DMV system?

Tom Casady said...

6:05-

I don't know. It hits on whatever database you have loaded into its computer. I'm not sure whether we'll have that data to load.