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?


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...


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.


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.


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


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


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?


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


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.


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


Here's another solution. Citizens start carrying around either an icepick or a pair of pliers and whenever they see a DPL plated vehicle arrogantly parked next to a fire hydrant they either puncture a sidewall or rip out a valve stem. Mr. Scofflaw Bigshot will suddenly find his royal schedule seriously disrupted while his toadies run around trying to change the tire (on second thought, puncture _two_ of them) or arrange alternate transportation for His Highness.

Welcome to America and to what we call "Street Justice".

Mark Wolfinger

We may not be able to get them to pay parking tickets, but we can slash their tires. That would at least pump a small amount of cash into the economy.

Osama S.

Shameful. In the grand scale of things the amounts are negligible, but you just expect more from people representing their nations.

Which embassies are actually paying their fines?

The countries not paying should be publicly shamed, maybe some bad publicity will put some pressure on them.

Enter your name...

How about, which embassies don't break the parking laws at all? Anybody could get a ticket once in a while by accident (not putting enough coins in the meter), but only a deliberate policy of breaking the law earns you two million dollars in parking fines.


A bit off topic, but I remember a story about 20 years ago in NYC in which the city government came up with a way to combat illegal diplomatic parking by towing the offending vehicle from its illegal parking spot to a legal one - but the legal spot may be miles away, in a place that would not necessarily be in the diplomats' social orbit - like say, south Bronx. Whether or not the city actually went through with the plan, I don't know.


Interesting paper, it does mention some actions that can be taken - removal of diplomatic plates?

and I'm sure that you had read this- I note that the Authors cite a couple of Levitt papers as well!


Actually, why not just move the United Nations to some country in Africa? These diplomats must be spending hundreds of millions of dollars in NYC annually. If that amount was spent in some poor african country, it will greatly transform their economy. Having the UN HQ in Africa will also help bring political stability to that continent.

Tom K

Start towing. At least it will be an irritation having to find your car.


I don't have a "Unified Theory for Parking Ticket Delinquency amongst Diplomats", but here are the possible reasons ...

Russia: Communist hangover. Parking is a public good that Everyone is entitled to for free.
France: We don't want our wives to know where we parked last night.
Brazil: No money for parking ticket, after we spent it all at the discotheque.
Cameroon, Mauritania: If we paid the parking ticket, you would have a reason to withhold foreign aid.
Yemen, Egypt, Kuwait, Nigeria, Indonesia: All good parking spots near our mosques have been taken over by people who never seem to leave their cars.

Jim Latimer

Arbitrator Jules Justin apparently once advised New York City to contact the head of the offending country, by mail, advising them that their representatives, as guest in the United States, were presenting a disgraceful image of their country by breaking speeding laws and disregarding tickets - or words to that effect. Send a copy to the offender so that they will know what you've done.

It seems the idea worked so well that the State Department asked New York City to stop the practice.