By John Hubbuch
In any criminal justice system, there is often a direct relationship between the severity of the penalty and the frequency of the crime. If you increase the penalty, the crime rate will usually go down. That's why there is more theft in the American system of justice than in the Taliban's system. A thief in America gets a slap on the wrist. In Afghanistan he gets his hands chopped off at the wrist.
This principle was not taken sufficiently into account by parking budgeteers when the village increased the fines for parking violations. Oak Park parkers are a smart and frugal bunch. When parking illegally cost $10, the citizenry was not nearly as vigilant as it is now that the fines are much greater. As a result, parking fine revenues are still down, and there's a hole in the budget.
What to do? The village has decided to increase the number of parking enforcement officers from nine to 14 to presumably catch more violators. At $35,000 an officer, not counting fringe benefits, these new hirees will have to bring in $165,000 in new fines from miscreant parkers just to break even. That's a lot of tickets.
This expensive arrow seems to be the only one in our quill, but I would like to present some additional strategies to increase parking-fine revenue:
We need more confusing parking signs. The current number and complexity is impressive, but the criminals are getting smarter and smarter. How about "No Parking on Prime Numbered Days" or "No Parking 8AM to 10AM Atlantic Standard Time" or "No Parking on Any U.S. President's Birthday"?
Hire college students who can't find jobs to serve as independent contractors to ticket cars, and give them half of all the fines collected. You would have an army of motivated workers, and it wouldn't look bad on a resume.
We need to involve the citizenry in these efforts. We need a traffic whistleblowers hotline. I feel like Oak Park has a lot of snitches and busybodies who are just chomping at the bit to call anonymously and let the authorities know of an ongoing violation. Central command can dispatch one of those little roving cars and — voila! — more parking-fine revenue. If it worked in East Germany, I know it can work here.
Finally, there needs to be an appeal to the entire driving community to get more traffic tickets. If on Sept. 11, the 11th anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center, each Oak Park driver would park illegally until ticketed, the parking fines would skyrocket, and this hole in the budget would be filled.
It takes a village.