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The NYPD’s (Non-Existent) Placard Crackdown — By the (Astonishingly Low) Numbers

12:40 PM EDT on August 11, 2020

The root of all evil?

The police can't police themselves.

Mayor de Blasio surrendered in the war on placards earlier this year when he disbanded two units whose job consisted of enforcing the law against misuse of a city-issued parking pass — but the mayor probably was unaware of the full dimensions of the units' utter and complete failure to even try to wipe out the scourge.

Here are those dimensions (based on the city's own parking ticket data for fiscal year 2020):

    • From July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020, the NYPD and the DOT issued just 2,444 summonses for the violation, "Fraudulent use of parking permit," which is the equivalent of fewer than seven tickets a day across the entire city.
    • Uniformed cops issued just 33 of those summonses.
    • DOT enforcement officers issued zero summonses.
    • The remainder of the tickets — 2,409 which takes out two unlabeled tickets — were written by Traffic Enforcement Agents, who work for the NYPD and are reluctant to write summonses to their colleagues.

Breaking down the numbers further, the full magnitude of the most recent NYPD/de Blasio fake crackdown — announced on Feb. 2, 2020 through the New York Post — becomes clear: Funny thing is, after that warning, placard summonses went down considerably.

The city's own data (embedded below) show that the NYPD issued 1,660 tickets between July and December, 2019, but only 783 tickets in the first half of 2020, when the supposedly new crackdown was in effect.

"There was no uptick in ticketing at all, despite the NYPD feeding the New York Post the fake crackdown story," one of the people behind the Placard Abuse Twitter account said. "It is truly egregious that the NYPD constantly lies to the press, when the data to prove their falsehoods are a matter of public record. When the NYPD lies pathologically to the public over and over about something seemingly minor like parking tickets, how could anybody trust them to tell the truth in situations that could have more significant consequences for their buddies behind the blue wall?"

Also, it's clear that some precinct commanders had no interest in having its TEAs or officers writing tickets against placard abusers – nine precincts, including all four on Staten Island, wrote zero tickets in those 12 months. A majority of precincts — 39 — issued 10 or fewer placard summonses all year.


The majority of tickets were issued by just seven precincts in Manhattan, which is Ground Zero for placard abuse. But even those precincts wrote just an average of fewer than four placard tickets each day...combined!

And outside of Manhattan, the average precinct wrote an average of 10 summonses per year, meaning basically one ticket for every 35 days. (Reminder: a cop with an eye towards busting placard abusers could write one ticket for every 35 seconds in some parts of this city.)

And such eagle-eyed cops, at least on paper, supposedly existed. Until this year's budget cuts, the NYPD had a 116-employee, $5.4-million unit whose sole job was to crack down on placards — though the fiscal year 2020 numbers show that this unit did little or nothing.

“Since they were not actually performing the work, it was purely wasted money,” Placard Abuse told Streetsblog last month. But beyond that unit, the latest data show that almost no one inside the police department, including the Traffic Enforcement Agents, is doing the work.

Now, certainly, some cops and some TEAs are writing parking tickets against drivers who park illegally with a placard — some tickets are likely still being logged merely as illegal parking, such as blocking a hydrant, overstaying one's welcome at a meter, etc. But in 2018, the city created a new violation code — 87 — for "misuse and fraudulent use of agency authorized parking permits."

It's those violations that cops didn't bother to write.

In the days after City Hall dissolved the obviously useless placard team, officials explained the move by saying that the de Blasio administration is still on target to roll out a computerized placard enforcement system next year called Pay-by-Plate. Mayor de Blasio announced it in February, 2019, 18 months ago.

It's not the first time that much-ballyhooed placard crackdowns by NYPD and City Hall have disappointed people interested in reining in the placard class. In 2017, the mayor announced a new initiative to crack down on placard abuse, including a promotional effort to "encourage members of the public who observe parking placard violations to call 311 to report them." There was no public education effort  (not like the expensive "Billy Never Idles" campaign). Plus, there is ample evidence that 311 reports of illegally parked cars simply get "closed" by the NYPD as soon as they are opened.

A year later, Streetsblog reported that the NYPD had towed all of 89 placard abusers in the entirely of that previous year.

We reached out to the NYPD for an explanation, but have not heard back. We will update this story if we do.

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