Tuesday Talk*: Love Thy Neighbor

Just to be clear, I love my neighbors. They’re great people, and we’ve gotten along famously for decades. They respect our privacy and quiet enjoyment. We respect theirs. We dine together a few times a year, and we’ve watched each other’s children grow up. Having great neighbors makes life at home infinitely more enjoyable.

But would I want them to be able to ticket me?

Some D.C. residents may soon be receiving parking tickets from their neighbors.

A pilot program, called the Citizen Safety Enforcement Pilot Program, would allow up to 10 people per ward to dole out citations after receiving some training.

If more than 10 people per ward apply for the position, participants in the program would be chosen by lottery.

The people selected would use an app that allows them to take a picture of an infraction, post it and then issue a citation.

“Some” training? Cops are, at least theoretically, well-trained, and they can’t seem to get it right, but “some” training is close enough? And then there’s the lottery, because that’s certainly a sound way to vet who among your neighbors isn’t batshit crazy. Remember, these are volunteers, and not just volunteers, but volunteers who have to apply. They want to do this. They want the power. Inside every radical is a cop waiting to come out, and now they can!

The new program is part of councilmember Charles Allen’s omnibus “Vision Zero” bill, which expands and amends Washington’s efforts [sic] traffic laws to prevent pedestrian deaths. Seven other councilmembers have also signed onto the bill.

The bill aims to address the lack of progress being made to protect pedestrians and cyclists in the city. Two recent traffic fatalities have spurred legislation to expand bike lanes in April.

No one wants pedestrians to be harmed, to die, and as everyone knows, there’s never a cop around when you need one to nail that sucker who did that thing that you saw and was awful and could have killed someone.

Of course, the notion seems to anticipate the ability to take a pic of the bad thing that happened, even though one never knows that a bad thing is about to happen until it happens, and only then, after it’s happened, can you take a pic of it. So the app idea, with a pic to prove it, seems more likely to take a pic of a plate after the fact than some bad dude doing some bad thing as it happens. But since pedestrian deaths are unacceptable, something needs to be done and this is something.

And once this idea of your neighbors having the power to cite you takes hold, with the dual benefits of free citizen-cops who generate revenue for the state, why limit it to pedestrian deaths? What about parking? What about grass that’s too damn high? What about that mean old white man in a MAGA hat talking smack about Pocahontas?

And what if someone sees them using the app and takes issue with their playing citizen-cop? How would a volunteer protect herself from a beating? Since the volunteers, if they exceed ten, will be chosen by lottery, they could be far right or left, each seeing the enemy through their own lens. One never knows who they will favor and forgive, or who they will target. Some might suspect they’re a bit biased in their enforcement and take issue with how they’re doing their job. With some extreme prejudice of their own.

Maybe you love your neighbors, like me, or maybe you hate them, but do you trust them? Do you trust them enough to put an app in their hands and set them loose to issue citations as they, with “some” training, see fit? What could possibly go wrong?

*Tuesday Talk rules apply. Yes, if you feel absolutely compelled to tell your bad neighbor story, you’re allowed.

39 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: Love Thy Neighbor

  1. Dan T.

    Are they encouraging people to post pictures of people eating on the Metro too? Because that doesn’t always go very well.

    1. SHG Post author

      Anyone who chooses to live in an HOA gets what he deserves. They knew what they were buying. They just didn’t think somebody else would be making the decisions instead of them.

  2. the other rob

    Is it just me, or does “Vision Zero” seem remarkably tone deaf, on several levels?

    1. SHG Post author

      Whoever came up with the name of this national project may not have considered it from the driver’s perspective. That tends to happen a lot with activists.

      1. the other rob

        The vision part is the obvious element, but there’s also the zero part, neighbours denouncing each other (albeit as bad parkers rather than intellectuals) etc…

        I guess they don’t cover Pol Pot in activist school.

  3. Bryan Burroughs

    The city where I grew up implemented something like this for handicap space enforcement. Our neighbor, who was in general a raging prick about things like this, dutifully signed up and issued hundreds of citations. He was so prolific in his ticket writing that he quickly drew the ire of a local conservative weekly.

    It all came crashing down on him, though, when he issued citations to a city-owned-and-marked vehicle which was illegally parked in a handicap spot. Within the week, he was no longer in the program.

    1. SHG Post author

      Handicap parking would seem to be one of those stand-alone problems that would work well with scold-enforcement, but then you get the people whose handicaps aren’t readily apparent, but the smug scolds go after them because, well, that’s what scolds do. Hilarity does not ensue.

      1. Bear

        Where I live handicap placards are notoriously easy to obtain. I’ve had one for twenty years because of injuries I received playing sports. I refuse to use it (probably because of silly self reliance attitudes) which drives my wife bonkers. If I do so again during a holiday shopping season I may need a divorce attorney. I do see people using them who have no apparent disability. But I’m old enough to realize the person may have had a recent heart attack or be being treated for cancer or whatever. I have no point to make. I plead Tuesday rules.

    2. Bryan Burroughs

      I don’t know about you, but I demand to see the VA card of anyone who parks in the reserved veteran’s parking in anything other than an M1A1 Tank.

      1. SHG Post author

        My father got Purple Heart license plates in Florida, which got him out of more than a few dubious maneuvers.

      2. Nigel Declan

        Seems discriminatory against poor veterans who can only afford to drive used Sherman tanks to the store.

  4. B. McLeod

    It is always the Frank Burns/Lee Rawles/Barney Fife types who sign up for this stuff. Terrible idea.

  5. Robert Rodriguez

    Putting once dormant couch potatoes on the streets only increases the chance of added pedestrian victims. Does it not?

  6. Jason K.

    Reading the bill, this is aimed at parking/standing violations, which are camera friendly (program starts on pg 9, line 272 of the ‘vision zero’ link). Every violation to be trained for is based on a vehicle obstructing something. Of course, this is likely to have negligible effects on pedestrian safety, as stopped vehicles don’t tend to kill/harm pedestrians (unless they are too busy staring at their phone to look up). The best this program is likely to do is free up police resources for other things.

    “But would I want them to be able to ticket me?” – They already do in a general sense. Maybe not your specific neighbors, but someone’s. Cops all live somewhere.

    “Remember, these are volunteers, and not just volunteers, but volunteers who have to apply.” – So they should be conscripted? I suppose they could do a lotto like jury duty and see who volunteers from that pool, but that is likely to end up with a similar personality cross-section as just letting volunteers apply.

    “One never knows who they will favor and forgive, or who they will target.” – Also true for regular police. The big concern here is the volunteer(s) being caught up in local politics (for the lack of a better word). This is one of the big weak points of community-based policing.

    I am not generally thrilled with the idea of volunteers for police actions as you tend to get what you pay for. While there is a modicum of accountability for the volunteers in the bill, I don’t think it goes anywhere near far enough.

          1. Bear

            I love that cartoon. I had a great one from the 1970’s, expressing the same joke, but I’ve looked and looked—so far no luck.

    1. OtherJay

      Was the paperwork tough to complete, or was it easy breezy? Tell us how ‘some training’ goes.


  7. Allen

    I have complete faith in human nature. The volunteers for this program will also be the worst offenders. The people in those neighborhoods are going to just love it.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    This sounds like an HOA on steroids, right down to the irrational rage and impotence and I’m sure it will attract the same nosey petty tyrants as an HOA. What seems like a good idea will devolve into vindictive score settling, and because the police are involved someone is likely to get shot.

    1. SHG Post author

      It kinda pisses me off when people blame HOAs. Nobody makes you buy in an HOA, but if you do, you don’t get to gripe about the rules. It was your choice.

      1. Shadow of a Doubt

        That strikes me as an incredibly odd position for a defense attorney to hold. If a client complains to you about the conditions of prison or the legal system, is your response that if they don’t like it they shouldn’t have committed the crime?

  9. Schmendrick

    It’s not just DC doing this, either. NYC has a freakin’ bounty program that lets people who document and report double-parking or idling violations collect a portion of whatever the city recovers from the vicious vehicular vandal in fines. (NY Post story: https://nypost.com/2019/04/28/how-new-yorkers-are-making-bank-ratting-out-idling-drivers/). At the very least, it’s an interesting experiment.

    I can’t remember if SJ did a story on this, so will pre-emptively apologize if I’m citing you to yourself.

  10. Tom. H

    At least there is some training. In Oregon anyone can initiate a traffic violation, no training required. Although it seems it would be hard to identify the driver of a vehicle if you can’t stop them and look at their license.

    1. SHG Post author

      Anyone can initiate anything pretty much anywhere. It’s finishing by oneself that makes it a bit harder.

  11. Frank

    It only takes 16 hours and $90 to become a security guard in NY. I doubt training for this will be that extensive.

  12. Pedantic Grammar Police

    When I was growing up, snitching was considered a bad thing and almost everyone hated a snitch. Since then the media has relentlessly extolled the virtues of snitching, and it is working. Now almost everyone wants to be a snitch.

    Orwell’s 1984 wasn’t a warning, it was a blueprint. We pretty much have everything it describes; this is one of the final steps.

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