The number of parking tickets issuedin New York City has surged 42 percent since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, in 2002, says the New York Times. The day after Thanksgiving was the most-ticketed day of the last fiscal year. While the city has explained the tactics it uses to curtail crime, its strategy in issuing parking summonses remains a poorly understood area of law enforcement and one that, even when done fairly, makes people cringe. Since Bloomberg took office, the city has hired 793 more traffic agents and doubled some penalties, collecting 64 percent more in fines in fiscal year 2008 than it did in 2002. During the last fiscal year, it collected more than $624 million, more than it spends to run the Department of Transportation.
The surge of ticket writing has swept away some of the civilities of life in New York, like the five-minute grace period that was once part of the city's official enforcement policy. Police officials say there is no longer a grace period, but many motorists still believe one exists. At least 276,000 drivers found out sorrowfully last year that the tradition is dwindling; they were ticketed for violating alternate-side parking rules within five minutes of the time the rule went into effect. A full 10 percent of the tickets for alternate-side parking violations were issued within two minutes of the time that the rule went into effect. Traffic agents may be emboldened in part by the precision of their equipment. The city has furnished all traffic enforcement agents with handheld computers that spit out more tickets in less time and with fewer errors than handwritten tickets.