Diplomatic Parking Tickets


Usually, it’s New York City that complains bitterly about its diplomat parking ticket situation.  The U.N. may be a beacon of hope and peaceful negotiation around the world, but it brings with it workers who use their immunity to park in front of fire hydrants, red zones, and anywhere else they please – it’s the stuff of urban legends and West Wing episodes.

Washington, D.C. is getting in on this complaining game. According to a new article on WTOP.com. D.C. takes the #2 spot with a diplomat ticket total of more than $500,000. New York City is owed a grand total of $17.2 million.

In 2003, the state department issued dire warnings to embassies in New York and D.C. threatening to withhold foreign assistance if parking tickets were not paid.  So far though, it seems no foreign assistance has been withheld.

Here’s D.C.’s top offenders:

Russia – $27,200
Yemen – $24,600
Cameroon – $19,520
France – $19,520
Mauritania – $8,070

The Holy See, it’s worth noting, has only one outstanding ticket for $25.

In New York, the list of top offenders is a different set:

Egypt – $1,929,142
Kuwait – $1,266,901
Nigeria – $1,019,998
Indonesia – $692,200
Brazil – $608,733

So what do these countries have in common?  Oil wealth? Moxie? In 2006, Forbes Magazine hypothesized that it was the level of a country’s corruption (according to the Corruption Perception Index) that predicted the level of parking ticket delinquency, along with a country’s level of anti-American sentiment.

Any other theories?


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  1. MikeHypercube says:

    For other theories you should triangulate these results by identifying who the main offenders are in countries other than the US.

    I think I know who the main offender might turn out to be, but I might be wrong…

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  2. Rodrigo says:

    Maybe they also have in common a large number of enployees in their embassies. These lists should normalice by the number of License plates issued by the State Department.

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  3. Becca says:

    Personal relationships between mayors, sometimes.

    About five years ago the mayor of London was outraged because American diplomats weren’t paying their congestion charge. Unsurprisingly, the response was that the British diplomats didn’t pay their parking tickets in New York city.

    Rates of payment continued to decline on both sides.

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    • Allan Peda says:

      Well, in the case of the UK, it’s more like two kids playing, roughly. We really should set a better precent. Maybe we could have Canada hold funds in escrow for that very reason.

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  4. pdjpdj says:

    isn’t there a similar list for the congestion charge in London? I believe USA is near the top in that

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  5. Jonathan says:

    This was already done in Economic Gangsters the book. Please see there. The study was done several years ago in fact.

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  6. Bart says:

    I’m not Roman Catholic, but I wonder if paying the Holy See’s outstanding parking ticket would get me some sort of indulgence or dispensation. Are those transferable?

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  7. Mark says:

    So why don’t they just tow the cars or boot the wheels?

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    • Nicholas says:

      Diplomats, their families, their luggage, their homes and their cars are essentially inviolable. You can’t arrest them, search them, or seize their stuff.

      If you’re unhappy with a diplomat, your only option is to declare them persona non grata and kick them out of the country. The state department doesn’t want to piss off a bunch of foreign countries just because the mayor of New York is complaining about a few parking tickets.

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      • Allan Peda says:

        I am sure we could find a few “subcontractors” in Brighton Beach who would enjoy busting the horns of their compatriots by booting their cars. Then the NYPD could clam that those contractors went rogue, and their contracts will be cancelled, only to be re-hired again under a new name.

        Remember now, years ago Yukos Oil was liquidated and sold to a cell phone store, DBA Baikal Finans Group (no I am not making that up, http://goo.gl/Cdkx0 ).

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    • Enter your name... says:

      I believe that you could park a bunch of other cars very closely around them, so that they had to ask other people to move their cars before they could get theirs out of the parking space. While this would be irritating, I’m not sure it would solve the real problems: four cars blocking the fire hydrant to make a point isn’t actually preferable to just one.

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    • Vinny B says:

      “So why don’t they just tow the cars or boot the wheels?”

      The Forbes article says: “In 2002 the Clinton-Schumer amendment gave New York City the right to tow the vehicles of delinquent diplomats and to recoup unpaid parking violations (plus a penalty) from U.S. foreign aid disbursements to offending nations. “

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      • Arturo says:

        None of the comments so far seemed to take into account that diplomatic (and consular) immunity is a tenet of international law codified respectively in the two Vienna conventions of 1961 and 1963, who have been signed and ratified by nearly every country in the world. Enforcing traffic regulations of a vehicle belonging to a diplomatic (or consular) representation would be in fact a breach of an international treaty and could cause an international incident and consequently worsen bilateral relationships.

        I live in Rome and can witness daily quite a number of vehicles with CD plates parked just anywhere, and local police don’t even trouble themselves with issuing tickets that wouldn’t be paid and couldn’t be enforced in any way. Maybe this would not sound fair to you, but international law supersedes local law, and nothing can be done about it

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  8. brown says:

    I assume you have read the miguel and fisman paper : http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~emiguel/pdfs/miguel_parking.pdf

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