LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — We caught Los Angeles parking officers writing ticket after ticket, hitting motorists with a $73 fine.
“It’s unfair, really unfair, and really bad,” said one woman who’d just been cited.
CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein found her ticket, and potentially thousands of others, should never have been issued.
“These are five people that got tickets that shouldn’t have gotten them,” Goldstein said to one of the officers handing out the inappropriate tickets.
“Sir, to my knowledge, I had no idea,” the officer responded.
All the tickets were issued for street cleaning violations because there is no parking on certain days of the week.
CBS2 found that 622,873 tickets had been issued since Dec. 1, 2013, and city officials collected $45,469,729 in fines.
But after residents complained they were being ticketed on street cleaning days, even though the sweeper never showed up, Mayor Eric Garcetti promised he would change all that.
Last December, the city launched a website, updated everyday, that shows routes with relaxed parking enforcement because the sweeper was canceled.
CBS2 shot video of an officer ticketing a BMW even though it was parked in a relaxed enforcement route. The officer cited the driver $73 for “No Parking – Street Cleaning.”
It was a ticket that shouldn’t have been issued.
On another day, CBS2 found the same thing happening, with windshields filled with tickets.
“It’s $73 that can go towards my kid’s education and now I have to pay it to the city,” the motorist said. “It’s ridiculous. It really is.”
Most motorists didn’t know about relaxed enforcement and thought they were caught red-handed – until Goldstein told them.
He spoke to Katie Donahue, who had just received one of the bogus tickets.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Donahue said. “They’re preying on the citizens’ lack of knowledge about this.”
The lack of knowledge evidently extends to those in the department as well. Goldstein caught up with parking officer Destiny Reynolds as she was handing out tickets in a relaxed parking zone.
“This is a relaxed parking zone, did you know that,” Goldstein asked. “You have been writing tickets, we saw you writing tickets just now. This is a relaxed parking area. This is inside the zone, did you know that?”
“Let me check that out,” Reynolds replied.
Reynolds decided to check it out only after she was confronted and after she already had issued a ticket in the relaxed parking zone.
“How come you wouldn’t know that? You have been writing tickets…” Goldstein said.
“No, I actually just got here, sir,” Reynolds replied.
However, minutes earlier, CBS2 saw her issue a $73 ticket. She used her radio to see if what Goldstein had told her was true.
Goldstein said, “What do you think officer?”
“Yes,” she said.
“It is a relaxed parking area?” Goldstein said.
“Yes,’ Reynolds replied.
“So, you were about to write this person up? This person would never have known that right?” Goldsten said.
Reynolds only managed, “Right. Have a good day.”
CBS2 caught another traffic officer issuing five tickets one day. This officer also claimed to have no knowledge of the relaxed zones.
“We’ve seen you writing bogus tickets,” Goldstein said. “You wrote five tickets and it was a relaxed parking day.”
“That’s because they didn’t tell us,” the officer said.
When Goldstein reminded the officer that five people had received tickets unjustly, the officer replied, “I didn’t know.”
L.A. Department of Transportation Chief Greg Savelli said sometimes they don’t get the word from street services until it’s too late: “You’re making us aware of a flaw in the system and we’re more than willing to look at these flaws and try to fix them.”
But he stopped short of committing to refund everyone’s money.
“Shouldn’t you have an obligation to go back and look at tickets issued this morning to see if they were issued improperly?” Goldstein said.
“We could certainly do that,” the DOT head said.
Mayor Garcetti, meanwhile, was much more blunt.
“I’ve said, ‘Make this right. Period’,” the mayor said.
Mayor Garcetti says that people who received the bogus tickets will be getting a refund.
“Well, that is absolutely unacceptable. I can’t tell you how upset I was to hear that and, thanks to your reporting, people who got those tickets are going to get a refund, and it’s going to stop. Period,” the mayor said.
The DOT now said they’re trying to determine just how many citations were issued in error from Dec. 1, 2013, when the program began.
“Those citations will be dismissed and refunds will be issued to those who have already paid.”
And because of CBS2’s investigation, street services said they’ll get the word out earlier, so officers won’t continue issuing tickets to innocent motorists.
To see if you received a parking ticket in the city of L.A. for a street-sweeping violation since Nov. 27, 2013, you may be entitled to a refund because of CBS2’s investigation. Click here to see if you’re eligible and for information on contesting your ticket.
Click here to find a list of today’s relaxed parking enforcement routes.