CSI: Arlington County

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fox 5 D.C. Profiles CSI: Arlington County

In its Road Warrior segment this evening, Fox 5 D.C. profiled CSI: Arlington County. The whole segment can be viewed here at the Fox 5 D.C. website.

Monday, October 02, 2006

VIOLATION: Wilson Blvd. and N. Rhodes St.

We apologize for our sporadic reporting of late. If an Arlington County parking official parks illegally and nobody's around to photograph it, is it still wrong? We have no doubt that numerous Arlington County employees will let us know the answer in our comments section.

Today's violation comes to us from the Courthouse area of Arlington, across from Rhodeside Grill and an Exxon station that charges, on average, $0.20 more per gallon than most other gas stations in the area. And if there's one thing that bugs us more than the high price of gas, it's knowing that our tax dollars are used to buy gas-guzzlers so Arlington County officials can drive around all day handing out tickets and parking illegally.

Date: 9/22/2006
License Plate: n/a
Car Number: n/a

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

VIOLATION: Wilson Blvd. and N. Kent St.

Today's violation comes to us from Wilson Blvd. and N. Kent St. in Rosslyn. We especially enjoy how the county official had time to place an orange cone next to the car, but didn't have enough time to put a quarter in the meter.

Date: 8/29/2006
License Plate: 104-793L (VA)
Car Number: n/a

Thursday, September 07, 2006

VIOLATION (D.C. Police Edition!): Pentagon Row

The following pictures were sent to us by an astute reader on the lookout for crooks. Though the object of our ire is Arlington County, it's impossible to overlook the following infraction: a police car clearly parked in a handicapped spot.

While we're loathe to give them any credit, we're betting our friends working for Arlington County know that that just ain't right.

Date: 9/2/2006
License Plate: 2258 (DC)
Car Number: n/a

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

We're Watching You


TO: Arlington County Employees
FROM: CSI: Arlington County
SUBJECT: Your Internet Surfing Habits

Dear Arlington County employee, like you, we are big fans of the Internet. The Internet allows us to do fun things like post pictures of law-breaking county employees and then mock their infractions. It allows us to find fun facts, like how Arlington County parking aides get paid $45,011 each year, while new teachers in Virginia make only $31,924. The Internet also allows us to see who is visiting our website, how long they spend on our website, and what other websites they might have been looking at both before and after their assuredly delightful jaunt to CSI: Arlington County.

So imagine our surprise when we discovered that many of the commenters on and visitors to our site were *gasp* employees of Arlington County! It even appears that one of you naughty little buggers spent quite a bit of time at our site leaving harrassing comments in nearly every post. If we didn't know any better, we'd think you had a crush on us.

Of course we're delighted that our county officials are finally taking the time to educate themselves about the concerns of the electorate, but we're not too keen on our tax dollars being used by county bureaucrats to defend their little bureaucracy for hours at a time.

In addition to being big fans of the Internet, we here at CSI: Arlington County are also big fans of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In addition to allowing citizens access to records about county expenditures on vehicles and fuel, FOIA also allows us to access county records about, oh, let's say a certain website that tracks the illicit activities of a certain county parking enforcement unit. We're sure that request is going to be a lot of fun for you. But don't get ahead of yourself, as you have plenty of other requests to which you must first attend. And remember, non-compliance with state FOIA regulations may end up costing you a lot of money.

Anyhow, we know you have a lot of very important work to do, so we won't take up too much of your time. Just remember that we know who you are, and that based on the sites you've been visiting, Santa's not going to have very many presents for you this year.

Friday, September 01, 2006

VIOLATION: Wilson Blvd. and N. Edgewood St.

Today's violation is sponsored by Arlington County police spokesman John Lisle, who accused us in a Washington Post article of making "a lot of allegations that are not based on the facts."

How's this for a fact, Mr. Lisle? On the afternoon of Monday, August 28, 2006, an employee of Arlington County parked and left his county vehicle unattended next to a fire hydrant.

How do we know this? Because there's a picture of it. But what do we know? We're just a silly non-Arlington County employee.

Date: 8/28/2006
License Plate: 109-366L (VA)
Car Number: 6249

In other news, CSI: Arlington County has obtained the Arlington County Parking Enforcement Unit parking checklist:

1) Park next to fire hydrants. Since most people know they'll be ticketed and towed if they park there, the spots are almost always open.

2) Be sure to leave your lights on. If your battery dies, we'll just bill Arlington County taxpayers for a new one.

3) Leave the truck unattended for a while. The presence of the truck will let passersby know not to park illegally.

Arlington County Parking Enforcement Unit: Because Parking Legally Just Isn't Any Fun!

Washington Post Profiles CSI: Arlington County

The Washington Post covered our website in print and online yesterday in a story entitled Blog Tags Illegally Parked County Vehicles (free registration may be required).

The most noteworthy aspect of the article to us is that county officials never refuted our assertion that they care more about collecting fines than finding solutions to the county's parking crunch. A spokesman for the Arlington County Police Department even admitted that illegal parking is not confined to the parking enforcement unit. All in all, not too shabby.

An excerpt:

The site was launched two weeks ago as a public exhibit, a means to display and poke fun at what Davis calls the "law-breaking, jack-booted thugs who . . . regularly break the traffic laws they are supposed to enforce."

"It was born out of frustration," said Davis, 25. "We've got such a ridiculous parking crunch here . . . and it seems the county cares more about getting fines than finding solutions."

Davis has posted several color photos of the ubiquitous white county vehicles, each parked illegally or left unattended. He has posted at least one photo a day since Aug. 18 and includes information such as the date and time of the incident and the vehicle's tag number.

Most of the photographs posted so far have been taken in the Ballston and Courthouse neighborhoods, where there has been a boom in construction and development in recent years. Davis's biggest gripe is that instead of creating more parking, the county puts its resources into ticketing those who cannot find a legal spot, he said.

And our favorite:

"When the [aides] are enforcing a parking regulation, there are times when they may double-park. However, when they do so, they are instructed to activate the amber warning lights on their vehicles to alert oncoming traffic," [Arlington County Police Department spokesman] Lisle said.

Arlington County Parking Enforcement Unit: We Have Flashing Lights, And We Are Authorized To Use Them!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

VIOLATION (Private Property Edition!): N. 9th St. and N. Oakland St.

Of all of the parking violations we've captured thus far, this one may be our favorite. Today's violation takes us off the beaten path a bit to the Lexington Square condominiums, a five-year-old condominium complex in Ballston.

You have to hand it to our friendly local parking officials. They thought they could pull a fast one on us, but CSI: Arlington County has spies everywhere. As shown on the sign posted on the lamppost to the left of the illegally parked county vehicle, this vehicle is clearly parked in a private "No Parking Zone."

Arlington County Parking Enforcement Unit: We Don't Just Harrass Our Citizens - We Violate Their Private Property Rights, Too!

Date: 8/26/2006
License Plate: 117-300L (VA)
Car Number: 6133

County Board Allows Disparate Treatment of North and South Arlington Residents

In addition to allowing an out-of-town towing company to book outrageous profits based on mileage towed, it appears that Arlington County also forces those north of Route to pay towing fees that are 72 percent higher than fees for those south of Route 50.

According to contracts reviewed by CSI: Arlington County, owners of cars towed by Al's Towing of Falls Church are required to pay at least $72 to recover their vehicles. In contrast, A-1 Towing is required to charge a minimum of $41.70 per vehicle towed by its company. Under the terms of the contracts with Arlington County, Al's Towing is responsible for towing north of Route 50, while A-1 Towing is responsible for towing south of Route 50. The result is that identical parking violations mere feet apart can result in drastically different fines. In addition to giving a competitive advantage to a non-local company, the contract terms also threaten to pit residents of North and South Arlington against each other.

While the 72 percent difference between the minimum allowable fees charged by both towing companies may seem large, the difference between actual sums pocketed by each towing company is even larger. Each minimum towing fee is comprised of two individual charges: a towing charge (to compensate the towing company) and an administrative fee (eventually collected by Arlington County). This arrangement gives Arlington County officials the freedom to claim that the county does not give money to seedy towing companies.

Of the $72 fee charged by Al's towing, $36 is for the "towing charge" and $36 is for an "administrative fee." In contrast, the minimum A-1 Towing fee of $41.70 is comprised of a $10.80 towing charge and a $30.90 administrative fee. Thus, the allowable towing charge of $36 for Al's Towing is three times higher than that for A-1 Towing.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Arlington County Gives Sweetheart Deal to Out-of-Town Towing Company

The notion of a towing company stealing your car, taking advantage of you, and not even buying you breakfast in the morning is nothing new. What's not new is the notion of county officials signing off on the scam. Based on information obtained by CSI: Arlington County, it appears that Arlington County officials knowingly entered into a lucrative, sweetheart deal with a towing company located more than five miles outside of Arlington County.

According to Arlington County towing contracts reviewed by CSI: Arlington County, county officials knowingly allowed out-of-town towing companies to charge "mileage costs" nine times higher than the current cost of gasoline. The current county contract with Al's Towing of Falls Church allows the towing company to charge up to $3 per mile traveled in addition to the $72 fee necessary to recover a towed vehicle. Al's Towing is located more than five miles outside of the westernmost boundary of Arlington County.

In addition to Al's Towing, which covers north Arlington, A-1 Towing of Arlington is under contract with the county for towing services in south Arlington. But unlike Al's Towing, which is allowed by the county to charge $72 to recover a towed vehicle and $3 per mile in mileage costs, A-1 Towing is required to charge a much lower fee of $41.70 per towed vehicle and $2 per mile in mileage costs. An Arlington County website with information on towing charges both misidentifies the regions covered by each towing company and neglects to inform residents of the additional mileage charges.

At this point it is not known why Arlington County officials elected to give such a lucrative towing contract to a non-Arlington company. Also unknown is the reasoning behind the decision to force county residents to subsidize travel to a location outside of the county. Although gas prices are hovering at an historically high level of approximately $3 per gallon, an additional mileage surcharge of $3 per mile appears to be excessive. Based on estimated gas mileage of 10 miles per gallon, the towing company's fuel costs are likely in the neighborhood of $0.30 per mile. The allowable charge of $3 per mile allows Al's Towing to pocket a profit of roughly 900 percent per mile under the terms of its contract with Arlington County.

VIOLATION: N. Fairfax Dr. and N. Quincy St.

Todya's daily violation of the law by an Arlington County parking enforcement officials comes to us from N. Fairfax Dr., west of N. Quincy St. In this instance, our law-breaking city official is straddling two different parking spaces and is at least two feet from the curb.

Based on our observations of parking enforcement officials over the past few weeks, it appears that car 6132 is responsible for monitoring Ballston on Saturdays. And yes, we do feel pretty dirty for having that kind of knowledge of parking enforcement routes.

Date: 8/26/2006
License Plate: 109-948L (VA)
Car Number: 6132

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

VIOLATION (Tow Truck Edition!): N. Fairfax Dr. and N. Monroe St.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you photos of an illegally parked tow truck. Why? Because tow trucks are jerks (warning: link contains adult language) and we don't like them. Unless our car won't start and we need a tow truck to save us. Then we like them just fine.

Shortly after photographic evidence of the illegal parking job was obtained, the tow truck disappeared. It was quickly relocated a block away at the corner of Wilson Blvd. and N. Lincoln St. And yes, it was illegally parked.

Date: 8/26/2006
License Plate: n/a
Car Number: n/a
Towing Company: Erwin's Towing

Monday, August 28, 2006

VIOLATION: N. 14th St. and N. Wayne St.

Today's violation of the day is brought to us by correspondent Unusual Candor. According to our correspondent, the county vehicle was illegally parked for five hours, from 8:30am to at least 1:30pm. Both a "No Parking" sign and a towing sign are visible directly next to the vehicle. And because the signs are in picture format, we can't attribute this violation to an inability to read.

Date: 8/24/2006
License Plate: 29-366L (VA)
Car Number: 1442

Friday, August 25, 2006

CSI: Arlington County in the News

Steve Eldridge of the D.C. Examiner takes a look at our site and concludes that CSI: Arlington County "proves that you can find just about anything on the Internet."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

VIOLATION: N. Fairfax Dr. and N. Taylor St.

Today's violation comes to us from, you guessed it, Pot Belly Sandwich Works in Ballston (memo to Pot Belly executives: you said I'd be paid generously if I pimped for your stores, and I haven't seen a dime).

Our friendly neighborhood parking official was nowhere to be found. As you can see clearly in the picture below, the Arlington County vehicle in question is unattended and obstructing both traffic and other parked vehicles.

Date: 8/19/2006
License Plate: 108-948L (VA)
Car Number: 6132

Frequently Asked Questions

Due to the volume of comments and e-mails received about this site, we thought we'd take a few minutes to answer a number of questions asked about CSI: Arlington County and its proprietors.

Q: You're an idiot.

A: That's not a question, but you may have a point.

Q: Are you nuts?

A: Probably.

Q: Why are you doing this?

A: From ticketing at parking meters on Sundays, to ticketing in non-metered two-hour zones mere minutes after the two-hour time limit begins, to blatantly ignoring clearly displayed Arlington County parking permits, the Arlington County Parking Enforcement Unit has proven that its mission is more harrassment than enforcement. Add a willful, demonstrated disregard for the law, and the result is a governmental agency that has proven that it is completely incapable of functioning without constant adult supervision.

This site exists because the Arlington County Parking Enforcement Unit is out of control and nobody is doing anything about it. And because it's kind of funny.

Q: Do you really want Arlington County parking officials to take up valuable parking spots instead of illegally parking on the street?

A: Good question, but I don't know if I agree with its premise. Given that most parking congestion occurs in higher traffic areas around easily accessible Metro stops, it seems silly (and wasteful) to give brand new gas-guzzling Ford F-150s to parking officials for the purpose of handing out tickets in areas that could easily be covered by foot or on bicycle.

Arlington County Chairman Chris Zimmerman has stated that Arlington County needs to be a more "transit-oriented" community, which means that people should drive less and use public transportation more. If that's the case, then the Parking Enforcement Unit should be a "transit-oriented" organization. And given the apparent obesity epidemic in this country, a little exercise for our county officials might not hurt. Not to mention the fact that we're paying $3 per gallon of gas for county officials to constantly stop and start their F-150s all day long.

Q: How is an illegally parked parking official any different than a police officer who speeds to catch a speeder, runs a red light to catch a bank robber, etc.?

A: Excellent question. The answer is that in the case of the police officer, the safety and security of the public is immediately at stake. However, that is not the case with a car that has been parked next to a meter for a few extra minutes. Vehicles that are parked too long next to a parking meter are not an immediate threat to anybody's safety or security (the crime of parking next to an expired meter is, at its core, a crime for not having given enough money to Arlington County in the first place, not a crime against one's safety or security). In many cases, in fact, the illegally parked parking official actually creates a public safety or traffic hazard, especially on roads with narrow lanes and no discernible shoulder. And to those who would argue that speeding police officers also create a safety hazard, we would state that police officers undergo rigorous training to prepare for events such as high-speed chases. To my knowledge, no such training for illegal parking exists. The only prerequisite is laziness.

And, because it's vaguely related to the police officer analogy, it's interesting to note how Arlington County's priorities are reflected in its budget for the Police Department. The Parking Enforcement Unit employs 29 officials who are responsible for enforcing the county's parking laws.

In contrast, the Traffic Unit, which is responsible for the "safe...flow of traffic in the County", employs only 11 officers.

Q: If a brief period of illegal parking makes the jobs of Parking Enforcement Unit officials easier, isn't that worth it?

A: Breaking the law may in many cases make all of our jobs easier. It would certainly make my daily commute more enjoyable. However, I don't see any judge or jury letting me off the hook because breaking the law was convenient for me at the time.

Q: Seriously, are you insane?

A: You've been a great audience. We'll be here all week. And don't forget the 9:30 show is completely different than the 7:30 show.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Links

Metroblogging D.C., DCist, and Say Uncle are the latest blogs to highlight CSI: Arlington.

Though some visitors appear more likely than others to defend the infractions of public officials tasked with enforcing the law, we welcome them all.

VIOLATION: Wilson Blvd. and N. Fillmore St.

Today we have a special gas-guzzling edition of parking violations by Arlington County parking officials. This illegality comes to us from Wilson Blvd. and N. Fillmore St., right next to Orvis and across the street from the Cheesecake Factory (a sign for the Container Store is also somewhat visible in the picture below). Although no "No Parking" sign is visible in this picture, the Arlington County gas-guzzling vehicle in question (14 MPG city) is without a doubt parked in a restricted zone.

Unlike other instances, the parking official in this case was nowhere to be found. We can only hope he made a quick trip to Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy of Legal Parking for Dummies.

Date: 8/18/2006
License Plate: 129-467L (VA)
Car Number: 6654

UPDATE: Because a commenter questioned the veracity of our claim that the vehicle above was parked illegally, the picture below was snapped earlier today. As you can see, the "No Parking" sign is clearly visible.

CSI: Arlington County: 1, Doubting Thomas: 0.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Links Aplenty

Many thanks to the Club for Growth and Red State for their links to CSI: Arlington earlier today.

You can read the full Red State post here and the full Club for Growth post here.

VIOLATION: Clarendon Blvd. and N. Adams St.

Our latest parking violation by an Arlington County official comes to us from the intersection of Clarendon Blvd. and N. Adams St. The following two pictures were snapped while stopped at the traffic light. They are a bit fuzzy, but we can clearly see that the parking official double-parked and left his vehicle running unattended. We can't make out the license plate from this photo, but based on an earlier infraction, we can easily determine car 6133's license plate number.

CSI Arlington: You Can Run (and Park Illegally!), but You Can't Hide.

Date: 8/21/2006
License Plate: 117-300L (VA)
Car Number: 6133