About once a year, someone writes about the fact that there are millions in unpaid parking tickets owed to the city of New York, owed, that is, by diplomats with diplomatic immunity who park wherever they like and simply tear up the citations. Its interesting that the leading scofflaws are, by country, Kuwait with 246 violations per diplomat, followed by Egypt (under Mubarack), Chad, Sudan and Bulgaria.
Up until 2002 the numbers were much higher, but the US began witholding the fines out of foreign aid to those countries who owed NYC money, and the offending states begin to pay their tickets, or at least maybe follow the parking rules.
The Brits took a different approach since their foreign aid budget isn’t quite as large as the US’. They simply towed the vehicles and impounded them. When they “discovered” that the vehicles was owned by an embassy and driven by a person with diplomatic immunity, they said they made a “horrible mistake” and were “very, very, sorry,” and noted that the driver could pick up his car at the impound lot located 45 minutes outside downtown London. Of course, due to the diplomatic immunity, there would be no charge.
The program didn’t get them much money, but the incidence of citation was greatly reduced. Clever folks these Brits.
Our wimpy State Department would probably be horrified if NYC took a similar approach. After all, we have to show every courtesy to our “guests.” However I’m not so sure about this diplomatic immunity crap.
I understand we want out diplomats treated with respect, and laws and customs differ. However when the law that is ignored can bring on life threatening situation (blocking a driveway to a hospital, or a fire hydrant, for instance) it would seem to me that the immunity could be waved.
But then I’m sure that the approach we take makes us loved by governments around the world like those in Chad, the Sudan, and Egypt.
The recent article in Forbes compares the traffic scofflaws with the official corruption scores of countries world wide. Check it out — you might guess what you will see.