Los Angeles

Los Angeles Can't Fix Its Sidewalks but Wants to Fine Citizens for Not Keeping Them Clean

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"Let me see your dog's vaccination certificate, RIGHT NOW."
Credit: alexbcthompson / photo on flickr

Los Angeles is catching flak for not being able to figure out how to maintain its own roads and sidewalks, despite its massive budget. Nevertheless, the city is looking at new ways to milk its citizens for even more money by trying to turn a host of minor crimes into ticketed administrative citations.

Los Angeles City Council is looking at the possibility of an "Administrative Citation Enforcement" pilot program. The city (aided by the Los Angeles Times) is presenting the program as a way to reduce the hassle for police to address low-level municipal violations. There's so much paperwork involved and it is such a hassle when people don't respond to warnings! It's being pushed as a way to avoid having to arrest people for very minor crimes, which seems admirable at first glance:

It would allow city officials to impose financial penalties for such offenses as urinating in public, having dogs off leashes at the beach or dumping garbage in public streets. 

Officials said the proposal, which was approved by the City Council's budget committee Monday, is needed because warnings can be ignored and officers are often reluctant to take actions that can trigger a misdemeanor case. 

Noise complaints at a child's party are also cited as an example. "We don't want to arrest Mommy and Daddy," explained one City Council member. But note the examples here are all common community nuisances where actually most (nonlibertarian) folks wouldn't object to citations. But the devil, as always, is in the details. The pilot program lists two-and-a-half pages of citable offenses, most of which have to do with pets and animals, and many of which the average resident might not be aware are even offenses. In addition to "failure to keep sidewalks clean," the offenses include "tampering with refuse" (which will likely snag the many extremely poor folks who comb through recycling bins on trash day before the trucks come), "failure to post city business permit in a fixed location of business," "café entertainment without a permit," "amplified sound—refrigeration, air or heating," "harboring unlicensed dog," and most importantly "feeding pigeons in certain areas." A police officer could probably hand out a half-dozen of these citations walking down the street where I live (especially in regards to pet licensing and stray animals). You can read the city's details about the proposed program and the rest of the list here (pdf).

The citations will start at $100 but work all the way up to $1,000 for repeat violations. There is a two-step appeals process, but heads up: If you want to take it all the way, you have to submit the value of the fine as a deposit for the privilege and pay additional fees should you lose. And while the city has the burden of proof, it only has to reach the "preponderance of the evidence" threshold against the citizen, which is a much lower requirement than "beyond a reasonable doubt."

The citations will be handled through an outside vendor who will get paid a flat fee per citation. The city expects that the new program will eventually generate $2.5 million in revenue per year. It will also create six new city employee positions.

Much like sticking police officers in schools prompted schools to start treating all forms of student behavior as criminal activity, making it a breeze for police to generate revenue for the city (and themselves) by citing people for a host of minor crimes is going to obviously result in police making citizens' lives more miserable, especially for poor people who perhaps aren't following every single pet law or business regulation because they can't afford it.  

Related: Earlier in the year, Brian Doherty noted how strict enforcement of jaywalking and misdemeanor laws and the implementation of various "small fines" like these are making life miserable for the poor.

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  1. Poor and minority voters in Los Angeles need to wise up, remove these Tea Party extremists from office, and elect Democrats!

    1. IF they don’t like paying the price of civilization, they can fucking move to Somalia!!!

      1. + 1 CALIFORNIA STRONG! TAXIN THE RICH TO FREEDOMS

  2. If you want to take it all the way, you have to submit the value of the fine as a deposit for the privilege and pay additional fees should you lose.

    Now that’s inspired. All the rights to justice you can afford.

    1. They use this with constitutional challenges to tax laws, too.

  3. The NYC police started ‘ticketing’ people more for infractions a few years back. On three separate occasions (2 involving drinking beer in outdoor locations) I was nabbed, and I pleaded that i unfortunately had no I.D. on me.

    The disgruntled officer insisted I provide my information so that i could be suitably fined.

    My brother later told me about the strange tickets he was getting in the mail.

  4. “amplified sound?refrigeration, air or heating,”

    Did Marshall and Frigidaire merge or something?!?!?!

    1. Beat me to it.

      That is one crazy-ass restriction.

      1. What even IS the restriction in that quote?

        No amplifying of sound, or modification of temperatures? PERIOD.

        1. My *guess* is that they don’t want loud HVAC devices disturbing the public.

          But it’s LALALand, so who the hell knows.

    2. I regularly plug my fridge into my Mesa Boogie. Who doesn’t?

    3. Man. When my friend said I had “Einstuerzende Neubauten tickets in LA” this is not what I thought he meant… 🙁

  5. caf? entertainment without a permit

    Christ.

    There is a two-step appeals process, but heads up: If you want to take it all the way, you have to submit the value of the fine as a deposit for the privilege and pay additional fees should you lose. And while the city has the burden of proof, it only has to reach the “preponderance of the evidence” threshold against the citizen, which is a much lower requirement than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Christ.

  6. OT: The next James Foley? http://news.yahoo.com/isis-dem…..ories.html

    1. And after her, will ISIS behead a child to keep showing how serious they are? 8-(

      1. 8 year olds dude

    2. #BringBackOurCadavers

  7. How in the world does a $1000 fine not entitle someone to a criminal trial?

    1. Because FYTW.

  8. “urinating in public,”
    Speaking of which, the local County Democrat chairman was just cited by the cops for pissing in an alley behind a restaurant. Now a major faction within the Dems are demanding his resignation for is “outrage.” But they certainly have no problem with the Democrat Party pissing on the rest of the citizens, do they?

    1. From a great hight…

    2. But they certainly have no problem with the Democrat Party pissing on the rest of the citizens, do they?

      It’s just raining.

  9. “The citations will be handled through an outside vendor who will get paid a flat fee per citation. The city expects that the new program will eventually generate $2.5 million in revenue per year.”

    Ooooo! Tax farming! Now THAT certainly isn’t going to generate civil rights violations!

    ‘It will also create six new city employee positions.”

    Well, there goes THAT 2.5 million a year.

    1. The citations will be handled through an outside vendor who will get paid a flat fee per citation.

      “Outside vendor”?!

      Make it *twelve* new city employee positions!

  10. Awesome – extortion in the name of victimless crimes always make people happy and respect the authorities.

  11. A police officer could probably hand out a half-dozen of these citations walking down the street where I live (especially in regards to pet licensing and stray animals)

    *Ahem*

    I have oft patrolled along this street before
    But the dog shit didn’t get beneath my feet before
    Thanks to this program I…can now cite this guy
    And everyone else on the street where you live

  12. Look at all those takers.

  13. Aided by the Los Angeles Times???

    They are PROUD to be the state’s press agent.

  14. Nevertheless, the city is looking at new ways to milk its citizens for even more money by trying to turn a host of minor crimes into ticketed administrative citations.

    Well, yeah, what do you expect? Otherwise they would have to go after real criminals. And real criminals are violent and scary. OFFICER SAFETY!

  15. Ah, yes, the good old broken windows theory.

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