- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

For some motorists, buying a new car might be cheaper than paying off all of the parking tickets they owe the D.C. government.

The owner of a Jeep registered in Virginia, for example, has 239 unpaid tickets, the most in the District, and fines totaling $16,345 dating back to September 2000.

Records show that there are 21 vehicles with 75 or more unpaid parking tickets, combining for nearly a quarter-million dollars owed. All but two of the vehicles have Maryland or Virginia license plates, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The records show 302 vehicles with 26 or more open parking tickets that add up to more than $1.1 million in fines.

The threshold for a vehicle getting “booted” is having at least three unpaid tickets over more than 60 days. It’s not clear how so many vehicles were able to accumulate so many tickets without first getting booted.

To remove the boot, motorists must pay a $50 removal fee and pay off their fines.

A spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Public Works, which enforces the city’s parking laws, said city boot crews don’t track down individual motorists.

“We don’t target,” public works spokeswoman Linda Grant said. “But we do go to areas where we’ve been successful.”

Miss Grant said city boot crews patrol across the District looking for scofflaws using recently employed technology that she says will help catch more violators.

She said new camera equipment scans parked vehicles’ license plates and alerts crews when a vehicle is “boot-eligible.”

D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said booting is the only way the District has to catch parking scofflaws from outside the city.

“If they come from outside of the District and they owe unpaid tickets, we’ll get them sooner or later,” he said.

The District’s Department of Motor Vehicles denied a request for the identities of the vehicle owners with the most unpaid tickets, saying the disclosure would constitute a “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

The records do not indicate whether the vehicles listed have been booted or whether some may have been abandoned. Some of the vehicles, identified by license plates, received their last citation months ago.

Despite the hundreds of scofflaws with big parking ticket debts, the District has one of the most aggressive campaigns among U.S. cities in “booting” motorists with outstanding parking tickets.

A recent city budget document stated one explanation for the high number of unpaid tickets by out-of-state motorists.

“Parking tickets received in D.C. by drivers in Maryland and Virginia need not to be paid because those states do not require D.C. parking tickets to be satisfied before renewing the driver’s license or the vehicle registration,” the document states. “Booting out-of-state scofflaw vehicles ensures that the tickets are paid.”

Terry Lynch, a member of the city’s parking task force under Mayor Anthony A. Williams, said statistics showing out-of-state vehicles with the most outstanding fines aren’t surprising.

He called for reciprocity agreements with Maryland and Virginia, under which out-of-state motorists would have to pay their D.C. fines before renewing licenses or registrations in their home states.

A DMV spokeswoman said any such arrangement would have to be agreed to by officials both in the District and Virginia and Maryland.

“One of the challenges is that D.C. is not a state,” said Janis Hazel, spokeswoman for the DMV. She said she wasn’t aware of any plans to pursue such agreements.

Some of largest unpaid parking fines are owed by delivery companies and other businesses that routinely get ticketed. But many, such as UPS, also have enrolled in the city’s fleet-adjudication program, where they agree to pay off tickets each month.

Several of the vehicles that ranked among the District’s most-ticketed appeared to park on the same block week after week.

A Nissan with Maryland license plates was ticketed 73 times, accumulating $3,760 in unpaid tickets. The tickets were issued from May 2004 to January this year, and all but one were issued on the same block of Sixth Street in Southwest.

A Nissan with Virginia plates received virtually all of its 90 unpaid tickets on Fifth Street in Northwest, totaling more than $6,600. And a Lexus with Virginia license plates received most of its 48 tickets on Virginia Avenue in Northwest.

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