«Contesting the streets Volume 18, number 1 • 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and Research ...»
Health-code violations written by top ticket-writing officers were 2.35 percent more likely to default than administrative violations written by other officers. It may be that top ticket-writing officers are more likely to ticket clear health-code violations by vendors, who then end up going out of business or changing what they sell.
Conclusions and Implications for Future Research The results presented in the previous section suggest that both situational and violation-specific factor attributes influence the probability that a vendor will default in payment of a ticket. As expected, the odds of default in payment for more expensive fines compared with odds for lower fines were greater. Results presented here suggest more crystal-clear violation statutes, lower fine amounts, and attention to the time of day and even seasonality can all influence fine payment, the management of public enforcement costs, and thus the fining of “the hand that feeds you.” The implications of this research suggest that street-vending policy needs to take into account the interactions between both factor types when managing public costs of vending-regulation enforcement. Our findings also propose a few considerations of interest to city police departments, city planners, and policymakers interested in increasing compliance, and thus city revenues. From a policy perspective, the findings uncovered here suggest policymakers should aim to rewrite ambiguous vending statutes so that they are crystal clear in interpretation. First, stakeholders who are in a position to rewrite ambiguous statutes should consider doing so. Officers who are in charge of levying street-vending tickets should likewise be mindful of whether the cited violation is crystal clear to the vendor or open to interpretation. That vendors are more likely overall to pay fines for crystal-clear statute violations is information that could help increase the payment of future imposed fines, and it is important information for city planners as they work to manage public costs.
For vendors, it would be beneficial if all violations were crystal clear. Street vendors might be better able to avoid future tickets if they clearly understood how additional violations could be avoided, thus increasing their business revenue. Crystal-clear tickets could work as a learning tool for vendors working to be in compliance and wishing to reduce future fines. Muddy violations, however, are open to officers’ interpretation, and vendors may feel unsure about how to avoid such tickets in the future. If a goal of issuing tickets is to prevent future occurrences, statutes must be written in a way to effectively educate the vendor on why they were in violation in the first place (Kettles, 2014; Morales and Kettles, 2009).
More detailed analyses of the practices of the top ticket-writing cops could also yield important information for street-vending stakeholders. Our findings confirm those by earlier researchers that street vendors are more likely to pay fines that range from $25 to $100 compared with greater fine levels. Although a cost-benefit analysis of lower fine amounts is beyond the capabilities of this article, future research of such an analysis would be vital to cities looking to increase their violation revenue.
Expanding these initial questions is of importance. Our findings regarding compliance were from the perspective of the officer issuing the citation and with respect to situational factors. Such factors are a proxy for the issuing officer’s perception of the situation and the policing policy that officer is enacting. Thus, it is one side of the compliance problem and process. The social process of compliance must also include the perspective of the vendor responding to being ticketed and also the bureaucratic and organizational intricacies of this larger social process of compliance. Our research agenda must comprehend other components of this larger process and we offer a few thoughts in this regard.
Cityscape 103Carroll, Basinski, and Morales
Further, and importantly, to produce some comparison of the factors we analyzed, we are seeking new data from after the policy change. Note that the research presented here uses citation data from 2010; these data are from tickets that were issued before the 2013 vending policy change that lowered fine levels. Using the 2010 data enabled us to follow up on the earlier efforts and findings of Davis and Morales (2012). The 2010 citation data were also the most readily accessible citation data available, given the arduous task of obtaining and entering the fine information from paper tickets provided by the city.
Future efforts would use citation data from after the 2013 policy change, to compare whether results are similar to our current findings. It may be that an anchor effect occurs after the policy change in that, after fines are reduced, vendors are more likely to now default on moderately priced tickets than they were before the policy change. Additional research efforts could compare the likelihood of payment default before and after the policy change by building off of the prepolicy change findings presented here.
We examined and coded vending regulations in the data set from the perspective of whether the rule itself was legally ambiguous. Additional coding of vending statutes could consider how the vendors themselves would view these regulations and whether variation in interpretation occurs based on vendor characteristics. For example, vendors may consider certain violations to be justifiable and others simply a nuisance, regardless of whether the regulation is clearly interpreted. Further, characteristics such as the education level of the vendor may represent additional situational factors that may influence both regulation interpretation and the likelihood of default in payment.
Such questions could be answered via the collection of additional primary data examining how vendor-level demographics influence the interpretation of existing statute wording and how differences in interpretation influence the likelihood of violation default in payment. Coupling such primary data with existing secondary data on vending violations after the policy change could yield further insights for managing public costs of regulation.
In addition to analyzing such organizational and situational factors, we suggest further analysis regarding the aforementioned perspective of the vendor, which is not well understood and again provides a number of important questions for future research. Possibly the first of these is whether vendors would agree with the coding scheme we used here. Developing a clearer understanding of how vendors perceive the citation, and act on it, is essential to understanding the social process of compliance.
Although the city council reduced vending penalties by 50 percent in 2013, the city needs to take further steps to make the current structure of street-vending violations clear for the city’s vendors.
Policy statutes are often written from the legal enforcement perspective and, as such, can be challenging to navigate and interpret without adequate training. Revising current street-vending statutes so that regulations are not contradictory across city agencies would be beneficial for vendors and officers alike; such revisions could help reduce the public cost of enforcement by minimizing violations that vendors might think are unclear.
Large cities such as NYC should also be mindful that violations imposed during slower and financially stressed business times of the year may be more susceptible to lack of payment; we found the likelihood of default higher during the winter. The results uncovered here indicate that vendors
who are issued violations in Manhattan are more likely to default in payment than vendors who are issued tickets in other boroughs. Although these results may be attributed to the large number of vendors in Manhattan as a whole, it is still vital information for officers policing street vendors in NYC.
Acknowledgments The authors thank Gregg Kettles for providing invaluable legal expertise and assistance with data coding, Anna Alice Reznickova and Raphael Bostic for helpful comments, and John Davis and Molly Levine for excellent research assistance.
Authors Kathryn A. Carroll is a Ph.D. candidate in consumer behavior and household economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Sean Basinski is the Director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center.
Alfonso Morales is a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of WisconsinMadison.
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