1/29/2013Opinion: US Transportation Department Cracks Down On Wrong Ticket Scam
US Transportation Department more concerned with Super Bowl ticket fraud than far more serious traffic ticket fraud.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) announced last week that it was cracking down on a ticket scam -- one having nothing to do with motorists. Instead of addressing unlawful traffic ticket quotas or inaccurate speed camera citations, the department is concerned about fraud related to ticket packages offered to fans interested in attending Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 3.
It is against DOT rules to offer an airline travel packages for the Super Bowl if the advertising implies game tickets are included in the price when, in fact, they are not. The department's consumer division allows defrauded individuals to file complaints and obtain a full refund if the complaint is found to be valid.
There are no consumer hotlines or refunds for those defrauded in the course of their ground-based travels, even though, in many cases, the deceptive conduct is supported by US DOT grant money. In Baltimore, Maryland, for example, the speed cameras are so inaccurate that as many as one out of every twenty citations went to innocent vehicle owners. Both the city and county of Baltimore operate cameras on federal-aid highways, according to a Government Accountability Office report. Red light cameras in Howard County were directly paid for with a federal grant funds.
The federal money provides a substantial incentive. The National Highway Transportation Safety Agency provided the money for six fully-equipped police cruisers that the state of South Carolina used as a prize for the police agency that could write the greatest number of tickets. In 2011, the Livermore, California Police Department won a special prize for its creativity in the California Law Enforcement Challenge, as explained in the city's application for grant money.
"The traffic unit has been using an aerial lift truck to place an officer up in the air with a view of the problem intersection," Livermore's 127-page full-color award submission explained. "This program is affectionately called the Bucket Truck.' The officer in the 'bucket' observes traffic violations and calls those violations out to officers parked down the street from the intersections. Those officers stop the violators and issue the appropriate citations."
Though the department has no quota system, rewards go to those who produce numbers.
"In February 2011 the department issued 490 speed citations as compared to the 198 citations issued in February 2010, an increase of 147 percent," the application boasted. "For the first two quarters of 2011 we recognized Traffic Officer Nguyen for writing 206 seatbelt and car seat violation citations, Traffic Officer Rebiejo for writing 292 speeding citations, and Traffic Officer Robbins for making 11 DUI arrests."
Such incentives have driven state police officers to insert made up tickets into computer systems that resulted in license suspensions for innocent drivers, the arrest of sober motorists for driving under the influence and the falsification of records to increase grant funds.
Addressing issues that result in serious charges and arrests of the innocent is far more important than investigating shady Super Bowl ticket deals.