Pay It Forward

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Good Samaritan meets government collection agent:

Stanley Yaffe thought he was committing a random act of kindness Wednesday when he put a quarter in a stranger's expired parking meter.

Not so, a Denver "vehicle control agent" informed Yaffe. The "VCA"—as they say in the bureaucratic heaven of puffed-up titles and silly acronyms—told Yaffe that he had committed a crime:

"Interfering with the collection of city revenue."

[…]

He was stunned when the "vehicle control agent" explained, "I could have you arrested. You are interfering with the collection of city revenue. I could call the police right now."

"You're joking, right?" Yaffe said he responded.

"No," Yaffe said the monitor replied.

Yaffe said he wouldn't do it again and prepared to leave.

"What makes you think I'm letting you go?" Yaffe said the VCA replied.

The meter maid forced Yaffe to apologize a second time before releasing.  Thing is, there's no law in Denver barring Yaffe's act of good will.  In fact…

Not only did Denver's mayor have a campaign commercial where he fed an expired meter, he had a commercial in which he fed an expired meter as an actor playing a VCA started to write a ticket. The evidence is still available at HickenlooperforMayor.com.

Hat tip:  TheNewspaper.com.

NEXT: Drunk Until Proven Sober

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  1. Most of us have our grammatical and terminological pet peeves, so please understand if I can’t help pointing out that VCA isn’t a true acronym, because the letters aren’t pronounced as a word. For example, NASA is an acronym; FBI isn’t.

  2. Its pronounced ViCA! (with exclamation).

  3. Hummmm… Giving more money (albeit a quarter)for city revenue is equal to interfering with the collection of. Regardless of who’s car it was, the city was receiving more money.

    I guess by preventing the VCA from issuing a ticket is equal to interfering with the revenue that ticket produced.

  4. I thought that it was illegal to feed meters because metered spots have time limits. The maximum time on the meter is the maximum time a car is allowed to occupy that spot. Am I misunderstanding this?

  5. So, if I slow down to the speed limit as I see a cop over the hills, am I interfering with the collection of city revenue? What if I talk some sucker out of buying a lottery ticket?

  6. It would depend on the time limit. If a spot has a two hour limit and I put an hour worth of money, I can come back and put another 60 minutes worth of time without going over the time limit. Should it matter who put in extra 60 minutes if I don’t go over the time limit?

    If I go over the time limit, my crime is going over the time limit, not interfering with the collection of revenue.

  7. TricyVic

    I think you’re right. Most places have “no repeat metering” bylaws.

  8. How did the VCA know that someone(a co-worker, friend, whatever) didn’t ask Yaffe do put a coin for them?

    More likely, it’s one of those situations where although the municipality denies it, the meter agents have ticket quotas. The agent in this case was probably pissed that Yaffe was affecting her quota.

  9. Lovely Rita, meter maid,
    When did you become such a jerk?
    You can forget about taking tea with me. Or making it on the sofa.

  10. I have always thought “2 hour time limit”, meant “this is the maximum amount of time you can pay for” on the meter. Otherwise it would say “2 hour parking limit”, to mean “2 hour parking limit”.

    Gee the government making (what should be) simple rules confusing, unclear, and imprecise? go figure.

  11. Could it possibly just be the case that the meter maid was just playing a practical joke on Yaffe? Not that anybody acting under the color of law should be doing so, but still…

  12. If you can’t re-feed your own meter, then somebody can’t re-feed it for you. If you can, than they should be allowed to. Of course, if the space has a time limit, does the quarter in the meter help anything?

  13. I guess by preventing the VCA from issuing a ticket is equal to interfering with the revenue that ticket produced.

    Not writing a ticket becomes a kind of profit “loss”. And here I though the government acted as a non-profit organization. Seems I was wrong . . .

  14. “What makes you think I’m letting you go?”

    ummm..what makes you think you have the authority to detain me? Even if that is a crime, I’m pretty sure it isn’t a threat to public safety or a felony. It would be pretty ironic if, in her effort to colect revenue, she ending up making the city pay a lawsuit settlement.

  15. If the meter had already expired, the crime had been committed already; the new quarter wouldn’t change that. So no city revenue was avoided.

    If the mater hd not yet expired but was about to, then no crime had been committed and no revenue was yet owed the city.

    This is just asinine assuming it’s not gonna show up on Snopes.com later as a joke.

  16. While it sounds like the “meter maid” did overreact, it is true that the point behind parking meters is to facilitate many people being able to use a scarce number of parking spaces – the assumption being that by charging a price to use the space and a fine if you overuse it, it prevents a handful of people from hogging spaces that many need to use.

    So somebody going around dropping quarters into expired parking meters is encouraging the very behavior the meters are trying to discourage.

  17. …it is true that the point behind parking meters is to facilitate many people being able to use a scarce number of parking spaces…

    Silly me, I always thought the point behind parking meters was revenue. Dan T., For someone who likes to say “follow the money”, you sure dropped the ball here.

  18. Well Dan,

    If you assume that someone is going to go by your car everyday and feed the meter, then its likely that someone is encouraging bad behavior, but if you are not under that assumption, then it is not creating bad behavior because you are either (A) willing to accept that fine to begin with or (B) are not trying to exceed the meter and probably will remember shortly. Certainly there is no reason to encourage meter filling (like a tax deduction), but punishing people for throwing a quarter at a meter every now and then is a rediculous waste of time and its just plain stupid.

  19. Silly me, I always thought the point behind parking meters was revenue. Dan T., For someone who likes to say “follow the money”, you sure dropped the ball here.

    I don’t know – do most cities earn more from metered parking spaces and fines than they would from selling those spaces to private individuals and taxing them?

    Revenue might be a by-product, but I still maintain that cities probably figure out that things work better if you reserve the relatively few curbside parking spots in urban areas for people who need to conduct business quickly and then leave.

  20. (2) It is no defense to a prosecution under this section that the revenue collection officer was acting in an illegal manner

  21. Nobody Important,

    Just a question here, not flame bait: So, you can only legally resist an attack by a police officer after the officer has used excessive force on you?

  22. h-dawg: convincing that sucker to slow down has been called interference by Massachusetts State Police:

    http://www.hoboes.com/Mimsy/?ART=216

    If the link doesn’t make it through, google Nahant Massachusetts Speeding.

  23. Here in San Diego (downtown) the meters have a time limit – no matter how much money you put in you can only get 2 hours of time on the meter, you can’t keep the meter maxed out.

    of course they don’t reject your money, the meters just don’t credit you for it. You have to wait for the time limit to expire and then put more money in.

    As for the VCA, if a person says they could call the police to arrest you, then that’s a good indication that they don’t have the authority to detain you in the first place.

    Thirdly, when dealing with these dorks if they don’t know who you are then just walk away – let’s see how fast the police respond to his “emergency”.

  24. I once made a meter maid hopping mad in Boulder by dropping my spare change into several expired meters as she trolled up the street. She too claimed she could have me arrested, though I don’t recall now what the claimed charge would be. Best 50 cents I ever spent!

  25. This is the power that meter maids think they yeild in their own minds as public servants on the mean streets walking the sidewalk beat. Should we really expect anything much different in a country where any and all government agencies claim the right to dictate our actions at all times.

    This was just the meter maid, imagine if someone with real power wanted to do stupid things just because they think its their place in society. Wait they already do, nevermind.

    The guy should have told her to go ahead and call the cops since she had no jurisdiction to detain him and I am sure the cops would have been code red getting to a meter violator for arrest. I once had a similar situation and told the kind dictator to go ahead, I was in no rush and I knew the cops wouldn’t be either.

  26. I’ve had this same thing happen to me. When I was in Colorado for Grad School, I was standing next to a parked car in the student lot, right next to the bus stop. I heard the meter behind me expire (old mechanical thing… The flag came up with a quite a loud “thunk”). Thinking I’d do some other poor student a random act of kindness, I put a dime in, and gave them 20 more minutes. A meter maid started screaming at me and running up to me from several rows over, telling me that I was too late, and “I” was going to get a ticket for letting “my” meter expire. I informed her that the car wasn’t mine, I was just waitng for a bus. At that point she became nearly apoplectic. Informed me that I had committed a crime, and I was going to get a citation for (IIRC) interfereing with an officer in the line of duty, or some such nonesense. I told her that was the silliest thing I had ever heard, and she turned an even darker shade of purple, and demanded my driver’s license and proof of insurance?? I informed her that I had neither, since I wasn’t driving, and walk away from her as quickly as possible. Three mile walk home or not, it doesn’t pay to linger near the mentally disturbed.

  27. Wow. Even guys who use public transit can’t escape the million and one tiny-minded, puffed-chest bureaucrats who run the utopia of our nation’s great “mixed use urban areas.”

    And joe and his buddies just can’t figure out why most Americans prefer to live in “sprawl.” Amazing!

  28. If only H&R’s good Samaritans would stop feeding the trolls…

  29. Eryk Boston | November 20, 2006, 1:23pm | #
    “What makes you think I’m letting you go?”

    ummm..what makes you think you have the authority to detain me?

    ======

    Coming … the militarization of parking enforcement. You laugh now, but wait for it.

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