WASHINGTON -- Two years after the District of Columbia began a program to catch erroneous parking tickets, a top official admits it has not worked as planned.
In September 2011, the Department of Public Works (DPW) launched the TicPix program. DPW writes 85 percent of the parking tickets in the District of Columbia -- about 1.75 million tickets a year.
"By posting these images, we are giving motorists a picture of the violation that led to the ticket," DPW Director William O. Howland Jr. said in 2011.
DPW officials said the image would be posted online for 90 days and would help their agency and drivers catch any problems with the ticket. For example, when a ticket writer puts down the wrong license plate and the driver doesn't pay a ticket, another random driver will get a notice in the mail 30 days later. The license plate matches the random driver's tags, but the make and model of the vehicle would be incorrect.
DPW officials touted the TicPix program as a way for drivers to find a picture, notice the error and get the problem fixed.
But since 2011, most tickets do not have pictures attached to them, even though DPW guidelines state that they should. Simple errors with license plates mis-keyed are made more complicated without the pictures to exonerate the driver who gets a notice in the mail.
DPW officials now admit the TicPix program has not been executed well.
"It is very frustrating and getting to a solution is something that we are addressing in real time. We just ask that you bear with us and we hope to not be at this place 90 days from today," says Teri Doke, parking enforcement management administrator at DPW.
"There are several reasons at play. First, all of the officers have not adopted the habit and the pattern of taking pictures in conjunction with the tickets that they're writing. It's either because they're in a rush to get through their tickets or they're uncomfortable with the cameras. We are ordering better cameras and training them on how many pictures they need to take for each ticket. Our goal is that pictures can help solve things that could go wrong on a ticket."
Doke was hired in late 2013 to take over the top job at parking enforcement and admits to WTOP there have been lapses in the past. She says ticket accuracy has not been what it should, but she's committed to getting it right.
"I ask [WTOP Ticketbuster] to give me a moment to go in and address some of these burning issues. The top one, in my opinion, is the picture program. It slows the officer down and it makes them be more diligent about the work they're doing. We're trying to have everyone work at the same level of competency," she says.
Even after DPW gets more consistent about taking pictures, the larger problem may not be solved. Few drivers actually know about the TicPix program, or make it standard practice to go to the website to look up their ticket. Even when pictures do exist, hearing examiners adjudicating tickets at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) do not automatically check TicPix as part of their review. It's up to the driver to present the pictures when challenging a ticket.
But the WTOP Ticketbuster story on Stephen Combs revealed another problem: While the DPW officer took a TicPix for his ticket, no one at DPW or the DMV seemed to acknowledge or study the picture that showed Combs was not guilty of the infraction.
"Our training is trying to make sure our ticket writers and supervisors understand to slow down and get it right. We don't want them to rush and make errors that could've been prevented," says Doke.
If you think you're the victim of a bogus speed camera, red-light camera or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, WTOP may be able to help you cut the red tape. Email us your case - along with documentation - to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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