Enforcing the Law to Make Money

Enforcing the Law
to Make Money

© David Burton 2017

Las Vegas Shooting

     For the past several weeks, I’ve been taking the MBTA (Metropolitan Bay Transit Authority) Blue Line’s subway train from the East Boston/Revere Suffolk Downs station into Boston to the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) for some physical rehabilitation.

     Parking in MBTA parking lots was a bit problematical for me because of the long walks from the parking lots to the stations. Instead I’ve been parking just outside the MBTA Blue line stations, either at the Orient Heights Stations in East Boston or at the nearby Suffolk Downs Station.

     At the Suffolk Downs station, parking on the side of the road nearest the station is limited to “Residents Only”. Curiously, there are no East Boston residences nearby. On the other side of the street, parking in limited to “2 hours”. Since my physical rehabilitation only takes an hour and the transit time between the Suffolk Downs MBTA station and MGH is only about 15 minutes each way, I normally don’t have a problem keeping to the 2-hour parking time limit.

     But, a week ago, my physical therapy session took an extra ½ hour and I found a $25 parking ticket on my car’s windshield when I returned. The police officer who issued the parking ticket must have come by my car almost immediately after I parked and then returned almost exactly 2 hours later, since I had overstayed my allotted parking time by ½ hour or less.

     Since I was indeed guilty of a parking violation, I returned the parking ticket along with a check for $25 to the traffic court the next day.

     In my mind, the question was not whether or not I was guilty of a parking violation – I was – but why were the parking rules in effect at all?

     The “Residents Only” parking restriction (see the left-hand photograph above)at the Suffolk Downs station makes no sense, since there are no residences on either side of the road for a considerable distance.

     The “2 hours” parking limit (see the right-hand photograph above) on the opposite side of the road could not possibly be because of nearby businesses because there are none. True, there is a nature reserve of sorts - the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation - on this side of the road, but we are talking about a day in early November, when there are few if any visitors to the Reserve, as evidenced by the nearly empty roadway adjacent to the Reserve. Besides, on-street parking is net needed, since “Parking {is} available in lot inside entrance gate.” (Ref. 1) So why hassle anyone parking outside the Suffolk Downs MBTA station?

     The answer to this question is simple – the object is to get money into the city of Boston’s coffers. Crime control is not the issue. Public safety is not the issue. Serving public and business needs is not the issue. Elimination of traffic problems is not the issue. So, the next question naturally follows. Is handing out frivolous parking tickets, the best utilization of Boston’s law enforcement personnel? Boston has a reasonably high crime rate and its traffic woes rank the city as one of the worst cities in the U.S. in which to drive. Wouldn’t Boston’s law enforcement personnel be better utilized in addressing these and other real problems?

     A favorite way of raising money through the improper use of laws and law enforcement used to be the old-fashioned high way speed trap. Florida was notorious for this offense and one of the most egregious perpetrators of this misuse of the law was a 1,260-foot stretch of busy highway a mile outside of Hampton, Florida. Hampton used the speeding ticket money collected to build up a huge police force -- an officer for every 25 people in town. It was reported that this police force let drugs run rampant while they sat out by the highway on lawn chairs, pointing radar guns at everybody who passed by. Somewhere along the way, the place became more than just a speed trap. Some say the ticket money corrupted Hampton, making it the dirtiest little town in Florida. The speeding tickets were such a cash cow, they proved to be Hampton's undoing. A local sheriff described it as "serve and collect” instead of “serve and protect.” It became cash register justice.[2] We here in Greater Boston don’t need to have a similar state of affairs exist.

     I respect laws and their enforcement when both have useful and meaningful purposes. I respect neither when they are employed for objectives other than for which they were intended, such as enriching the public coffers for no good reason. Citizens rightly lose respect for laws that punish the innocent. Citizens lose respect for law enforcement personnel when they are perceived to be working against the common good and against common sense. We don’t want unnecessary laws and police to enforce foolish laws simply with the object of making money for our municipalities. In this case, Boston should simply install parking meters and quit the charade of providing parking for “Residents Only” when there are no residents or of limiting parking to “2 hours” when there is an overabundance of parking spaces.


  1. Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, https://www.mass.gov/locations/belle-isle-marsh-reservation , Accessed 14 November 2017.
  2. Speed trap city accused of corruption, threatened with extinction, Ann O'Neill, CNN, 9 March 2014.

  16 November 2017 {Article 311; Suggestions?_06}    
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