D.C. May Join Other Cities in Hiring ‘Citizen’ Traffic Cops

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Malibu volunteers on patrol.

Washington, D.C., officials are so desperate for more solutions to the city’s parking and traffic problems that they are considering recruiting citizens to help enforce the rules of the road, the Washington Post reports.

A proposal before the D.C. Council would allow up to 80 citizens, 10 in each ward, to issue tickets to vehicles parked where they aren’t allowed — blocking crosswalks, in bike lanes, in front of bus stops. They would be the city’s eyes and ears in neighborhoods, spotting parking violators, documenting infractions with photos, and issuing citations. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) calls them citizen enforcers.

The concept has been tried in other U.S. cities, where officials say it helps beef up enforcement while allowing police to focus on more serious crime.

Critics say “citizen cops” are a recipe for disaster. They say the plan could put citizens at risk of confrontations, increase favoritism and discrimination in traffic crackdowns and hurt the impartiality associated with traffic enforcement.

Allen hopes the Citizen Safety Enforcement program could be a resource to reduce road behaviors that put people’s lives at risk. The intent of the pilot program is to improve road safety. Allen said there were 37 traffic fatalities last year and 12 so far this year. About half  the victims are pedestrians or bicyclists.

Other cities have or are experimenting with the idea of paying citizens to rat out traffic violators. New York last year created a reward program for residents to report idling vehicles, providing a platform where they can file complaints along with photos and video evidence of offenders.

Near the Los Angeles area, Volunteers on Patrol in Malibu trains residents to enforce parking regulations, issue parking citations, and help with traffic control and emergency response. Last year, 18 volunteers contributed 7,516 patrol hours and wrote 9,140 tickets.

Additional Reading: How to Find the Cops America Needs

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