By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
To Israel Corporan parking tickets are part of the South Beach lifestyle. Although he pays the City of Miami Beach $260 for a yearly parking permit, it can take hours to find a slot near his apartment at 727 Collins Ave., he complains. So Corporan has concluded that breaking the law is cheaper than buying an overpriced pass. "Even if you pay, you're not guaranteed parking," Corporan says in hurried Spanish while slurping soup in his penthouse. "So it really doesn't benefit me to do it [the city's way.]"
The Dominican carpenter has amassed more than 110 unpaid citations during his thirteen years in the nightlife district. The first 60-plus were slapped on a 1986 Chevrolet Camaro that the county towed in 1993, he says. "I saw the meter maid preparing to tow the car so I moved it into a friend's parking spot in a nearby building," Corporan recalls. "And they still took the car. I did not go down to protest because I thought they would take me too."
Figuring the Camaro settled the score with the violations bureau, Corporan bought a 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity. In just two years, 1994 and 1995, he received another 51 infractions. Total due: $2472.
Fearing another tow Corporan visited the county Parking Violations Bureau to negotiate a payment plan. The answer was all or nothing, he claims. He chose nothing. Then the 47-year-old did what any upstanding citizen would do: He put the car in his wife Rosa's name, obtained a new license plate, and continued his outlaw ways. Now when officers check his tag on their computers, the outstanding tickets do not register. Rosa ensures new tickets are paid on time.
"If we both ruin our record, then we won't be able to drive," Corporan says. "I heard they stopped writing tickets for parking in loading zones. I now use the loading zones sometimes."
Roughly 750,000 parking tickets are issued in Miami-Dade County every year. A New Times analysis of five years of records held by the county's Parking Violations Bureau shows that only about half of all citations are paid within a year. If one considers only infractions more than two years old, twenty percent -- one in five -- remains unpaid. Thus, as of a few weeks ago, the county was trying to collect on 935,744 tickets issued from July 1994 to July 1999.
And numbers are rising. In 1992 the county estimated that $20 million in fines were uncollected. Despite a get-tough campaign in 1996 that cost almost $1 million, the past-due total has been climbing about five percent per year. Today the figure stands at $27 million.
That amount could pay for at least five garages like the 400-space, five-million-dollar structure that the City of Miami is building on Mary Street in Coconut Grove. The money could also be used to hire dozens of additional school crossing guards or help the cash-strapped city improve its financial portfolio. Ironically Miami has drawn sharp criticism from business owners for approving a twenty percent tax on all public parking fees that took effect September 1.
Miami Beach is the undisputed king of parking tickets, the New Times survey shows. From October 1, 1998, to July 31, 1999, the island's cops and parking officers penned 202,156 citations, accounting for about one-third of all those issued in the county. Not far behind is Miami. The city's Off-Street Parking Authority, together, with the Miami Police Department issued 162,151 citations, or a little more than one-fourth of the county's infractions.
Miami-Dade County is the third worst offender, with 110,405 and Coral Gables is fourth, with 81,250. The leftover twelve percent is divided among the remaining municipalities, with tiny Biscayne Park bringing up the rear: The city issued seventeen tickets during the period.
Because the Beach writes the most citations, it figures more of its tickets are outstanding. From July 1994 to July 1999, 231,479 Miami Beach tickets remained unpaid, totaling approximately $6,840,318. Those who receive citations in the oceanfront city are also among the worst when it comes to paying up. Fully one-fourth run out on them.
The top, well, ticketholder in Miami-Dade is Florida license plate number PST61N. Neither state nor city databases list an owner for the 1995 white Chevrolet, which boasts 72 violations. Total owed the county: $3627. Most tickets were issued on the 800 block of West Avenue in Miami Beach between 1995 and 1997, for parking in prohibited areas and having an expired license plate.
Runner-up in the unpaid-ticket sweepstakes is Denine Polen with 68. She lists a post office as her mailing address and has no listed phone number. New Times could not track her down for comment. Except for Corporan, who is last on the scofflaw top-ten list, New Times was unable to contact the other leading ticket cheats. Why? Half list Miami Beach addresses, but have apparently moved before a reporter visited. The others were out-of-state visitors who chose to ignore the tickets. They may know the county is powerless to collect.
A closer look at the database reveals some details of the typical ticket reprobate. He lives on South Beach, drives a Ford, and receives his citation between 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Where does this lawbreaker do his thing? No surprise here. Eight of the top-ten hot spots are on South Beach. Eighth Street between Washington and Collins avenues is the number-one locale.