Zurik: Hundreds of Millions owed to city through parking, traffic camera tickets

City does not explain how they are collecting years-old tickets

Zurik: Hundreds of Millions owed to city through parking, traffic camera tickets

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It’s no secret the City of New Orleans is in need of money – but a FOX 8 Investigation found hundreds of millions of dollars that is owed to the city.

The money is from outstanding tickets through the city’s parking and traffic camera enforcement programs. According to data from city hall, obtained by FOX 8 Investigates, more than $245,961,000 is owed to the city for tickets dating back to 2008.

PARKING TICKETS

Some of the largest amounts owed to the city came in the form of parking tickets from delivery drivers – mainly trucks from FedEx.

We followed trucks around for several days. One truck making deliveries near the Superdome owed $16,280 to the city in parking tickets. The records also indicated another FedEx truck had $18,305 owed to the city.

The city’s data included license plates and the amount owed, a source identified the license plate number of a handful of the highest offenders. Our research found five FedEx trucks among that group, totaling $122,000 in unpaid parking tickets.

We spotted FedEx trucks driving around with tickets tucked in the wiper blade driving from delivery to delivery. On a Reddit thread, a delivery driver posted a “pro tip” that said, “If you put a ticket/envelope on your dash when you park somewhere you’re not supposed to, there’s a lower chance you’ll get a real ticket.”

FedEx trucks were also spotted by our crew driving with no license plate, a potential violation of state law.

The State of Louisiana requires a license plate to be visible on vehicles. For vehicles in excess of six thousand pounds, the license plate can either be displayed in the front or back of the vehicle.

The permanent registration license plates assigned to a trailer, semi-trailer, motorcycle, automobile, pickup truck, van, or other motor vehicle shall be attached to the rear of the vehicle. The permanent registration license plate assigned to any truck having a gross vehicle weight in excess of six thousand pounds or to any dump truck may be attached to EITHER the front or the rear of the vehicle.
LA Rev Stat § 47:507

Our crews did not observe plates in either location on the FedEx trucks. The trucks that were missing plates were marked as being operated by FedEx contractor Bolden and Bolden Enterprises. Records show that company based in Laplace. FOX 8 Investigates reached out to the contractor for comment and did not hear back.

FedEx declined an interview, but issued a statement to us via e-mail:

“FedEx Express couriers and the service providers with which FedEx Ground contracts are expected to adhere to all traffic regulations as we meet the service needs of our customers. Parking constraints in congested metropolitan locations can pose challenges, but we always remain committed to parking appropriately.”

FedEx trucks were spotted throughout New Orleans driving without visible license plates.
FedEx trucks were spotted throughout New Orleans driving without visible license plates.

When we asked if the company had a comment about the tens of thousands of dollars owed in parking tickets – the company never responded.

FOX 8 Investigates also tried to get comment from the City of New Orleans about the amount of unpaid money owed to the city. We were initially told the city would arrange something. They then told us the person “best positioned to address this issue is out of the office” and would be available the following week. When we checked on the status of the interview the following week the city again asked for the topic of the interview, which we informed them of on our initial request.

The city never scheduled the interview.

The city seems to be aware of the FedEx tickets. In December, after we received the data from the city, we checked the accuracy of one vehicle, asking a question about multiple tickets in one day. The city told us, “This is a FedEx delivery truck. Delivery drivers routinely opt to park in front of hydrants rather than wait to find a legal parking spot, often resulting in multiple citations per day.”

It is still unclear what is being done to collect on the money FedEx owes the city.

Mobile users: click here to view chart of outstanding tickets.

CAMERA CITATIONS

A large amount of money is also owed to the city through the traffic camera program.

According to city records, the most belong to vehicles at one house on Filmore Avenue. Cars registered and parked at that property owe a combined $114,550 in traffic camera tickets.

One of the vehicles at the home, racked up 181 tickets in 2014 alone. On August 14 of that year, one vehicle received six separate citations – totaling $1,050.

“I didn’t think it was that much,” the vehicle’s owner said.

The owner said the city impounded a Pacifica that had $21,590 in unpaid tickets, according to city data.

“What do they want me to do? Sell my house and pay tickets?,” she told FOX 8 Chief Investigative Reporter Lee Zurik.

While talking to FOX 8 another vehicle pulled up at the home – according to city information that truck owed $20,030 in tickets.

“You speed though, obviously?” Zurik asked the homeowner.

“I guess,” she said.

“You kept getting them? Why didn’t you slow down?” Zurik asked.

“I slowed down – after the light,” she responded.

“You got them a number of years,” Zurik said.

“Because I was always rushing, that’s all,” she said.

All of the vehicles at the house on Filmore Avenue had a total of 640 delinquent tickets. The person at the home told FOX 8 Investigates by phone she recently wrote the city two checks for $7,600. The city said they did not have a record of a payment.

“I know the mayor doesn’t like them [traffic cameras],” she said. “I know if she had time to look into this -- she would probably diffuse it."

Earlier this year, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell turned off twenty cameras that were located outside of school zones. While the mayor did reduce the number of cameras, 91 remain in operation either in fixed locations or in the form of vehicles that can be deployed to different locations.

That owed money could go to help the city with projects that residents say are needed.

“[The money could be used] to repair the roads, and to help the homeless people,” Angela, a resident of New Orleans for fifteen years, said. “Every little bit helps. It might be a drop in the bucket, I think they need a lot more money – but you got to start somewhere.

“Yeah, they should pay up,” Angela said. “Sooner or later they’re going to have to they might as well step up to the plate.”

A city hall spokesperson detailed, in a statement, how their collections process works:

The City transfers its aged receivables to its collections contractor, Transworld Systems, Inc. (TSI), who is subsequently responsible for issuing notices and calling individuals to collect on outstanding citations.

The first delinquent notice for a citation is issued shortly before it becomes 30 days old. The second delinquent notice is issued when the citation becomes 60 days old. After a citation becomes 90 days old, a boot eligibility letter is issued. Once the eligibility letter is issued, an individual has 14 days to make a payment before the vehicle can be booted.

The City also has a fleet program comprised of companies such as distributors, utility companies and courier services who have multiple vehicles that are used for delivery of goods or service. Fleet participants make monthly payments on their outstanding citations.

The spokesperson did not comment on what the city is doing to collect on these tickets that are have been years overdue.

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