Providence’s mugging visitors is a dumb (but typical) thing to do.
Although the bit has probably been recycled many times, the easiest version to find is a scene from L.A. Story, with Steve Martin. A street ATM has two lines: On the right are people waiting to take out cash; on the left are people waiting for their turn to mug them. As Martin walks away with his money, a man steps up, puts a gun in his face, and says, “Hi, my name is Bob; I’ll be your robber.” Martin replies, “Hi, how are you?,” and casually hands over the fee.
Being mugged was just part of an evening out. In Providence, the joke would have to change a bit to make it the government doing the mugging.
A week and a half ago, my extended family went out for a significant birthday celebration, and we thought we’d try someplace different, settling on a restaurant in the capital city. The meal was great, and everybody enjoyed themselves, but yesterday, one attendee received a citation in the mail for an automatic speeding ticket.
She was going 31 miles an hour on a clear, straight road at 5:45 p.m. on a Friday evening. $50 — conspicuously priced to make it sting but hardly worth the effort for people out of the city to contest.
The problem with a municipal or state government signing on for one of these automated services is that it ceases to be about safety and the reasonable application of the law and simply becomes a way to suck money out of people’s bank accounts. A live police officer would assess the conditions on the road, and the possibility of being pulled over, even if no ticket results, is arguably as great a disincentive to dangerous behavior as a nice-‘n’-easy ticket in the mail.
Another thing about being pulled over is that the officer points out the wrongdoing (if we can call it that), and the driver can raise objections, if relevant, taking some responsibility for the infraction. Pulling a citation out of the daily mail along with bills and advertisements feels like being caught in a scam, because (frankly) it is.
And so, the next time we’re choosing a location for a night out, we’ll factor in the fear of accidentally hitting 31 miles per hour at the wrong moment if we go into Providence. I expect we’ll just go elsewhere. This area has plenty of excellent restaurants, and what made the night special was the company.
With every ticket the computer spits out in this way, Providence businesses run the risk of losing customers. But Providence businesses are not the priority of Providence government.
Featured image by Milan Malkomes on Unsplash.