The Council of the District of Columbia is currently considering a plan that would allow private citizens to issue parking violations against their neighbors using a smartphone app as part of an effort to reduce pedestrian fatalities on district streets.
What are the details?
The idea was proposed by Councilman Charles Allen, as part of his "Vision Zero" legislation aimed at reducing fatal pedestrian accidents to zero over the next five years. Seven of the district's 13 councilmembers have already signed on to the bill, and others have signaled their support, according to WTOP-FM.
Under the so-called Citizen Safety Enforcement pilot program, Allen told WTTG-TV the city would "start small" by deputizing an initial 80 residents empowered to dole out citations in their respective wards following a required training session.
The councilman marveled, "When they see a vehicle that is blocking a bike lane, blocking the crosswalk, blocking a fire hydrant, they would have the ability using an app on their phone to be able to take a picture and actually have a ticket that will be issued."
WTTG appeared to endorse the idea, asking residents to "imagine being able to give drivers a ticket yourself." WRC-TV pitched the prospect to viewers by saying once they were trained, "Your ability to ticket is at your fingertips."
Reason's Christian Britschgi was less than impressed with the notion, saying it would create a "panopticon-like citizen-operated surveillance system" that would "seemingly empower a nation of narcs to ticket any violation they come across."
Councilman Allen told WRC, "We don't have enough enforcement officers out there," explaining that oftentimes when the city gets a complaint about a parking violation, offenders are long gone by the time officers are able to respond.
But having more troops on the ground is about more than just safety. In February, WTOP reported that parking ticket and towing revenue in the district has been in steady decline in recent years, dropping from over $75 million in fiscal year 2017 to $69.4 million last year.
Empowering citizens to fine their neighbors for the common good might just give city coffers the boost they need.