D.C. parking enforcement ‘booters’ average 61 cars daily

AAA spokesman says District tougher than other cities

The seven D.C. employees responsible for “booting” cars with delinquent tickets immobilized more than 15,000 vehicles last year — a rate of 61 per day, according to figures compiled by AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Numbers provided by the D.C. Department of Public Works show city booters helped the District rake in about $1.1 million for boot removal fees, numbers that John B. Townsend II, spokesman for the drivers’ association, said showed the District’s parking enforcement is “more aggressive than other cities its size.”

The boot crew works only weekdays, but “their work output is incredible,” Mr. Townsend said.

“Even I was shocked there was 60 [boots] a day,” he added. “I was thinking probably 15 or 20, but when I saw the numbers, I was surprised.”

Statistics provided by AAA show that in the metro area of Syracuse, N.Y., which has a population of about 660,000 slightly larger than the population of the District only 1,160 cars were booted last year.

“I want to alert people that the District is more aggressive now than ever before,” Mr. Townsend said, “and what people don’t realize is that [booters] have the technology to boot you in a nanosecond.”

The technology is the License Plate Recognition System, roof-mounted cameras that sweep license plates and alert parking enforcers to vehicles with a backlog of unpaid tickets.

“As they’re driving down the streets it’s scanning every car,” Mr. Townsend said. “That computer can run a plate in seconds.”

Mr. Townsend said the eagle-eyed cameras are likely what has helped keep up the booting rate despite the crew size being more than halved last year.

Last year, the boot crew was reduced from 19 full-time employees to seven, according to the D.C. Public Works Department. In 2011, just before they were cut, the crew booted 22,351 cars. Those two years factor into the District’s five-year total of more than 90,000 captured cars.

Removing a boot costs $75 in the District, but if the car is also towed, that’s an additional $100 and that doesn’t count the $40 per day at the impound lot, or having to pay the outstanding tickets and late fees.

“Most people who get booted get little sympathy from the motoring public,” Mr. Townsend said. “You’re some kind of scofflaw, deadbeat, or some kind of person who doesn’t pay tickets on time.”

Often drivers who find themselves with a booted wheel aren’t dodging their tickets, Mr. Townsend explained, they just can’t pay them.

Parking tickets can be as low as $25, but a relocation towing fee costs $100.

Getting booted “could just be the beginning for a tale of woe and misfortune for low-wage earning vehicle owners, retirees on a pension, and for younger motorists eking out their existence on the minimum wage,” Mr. Townsend said. “Left unpaid, things can add up quickly.”

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