Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells has been fielding some complaints of late. Wells’ chief of staff Charles Allen says constituents in Capitol Hill are griping about their vehicles disappearing when they park in the way of the city’s robo-snitch, Sweepercam. Attached to a number of D.C. street sweepers, the technology records the license plate numbers of parking violators and then issues a ticket through the mail.
Typically, forgetting to move your wheels during street-sweeping hours will cost you a manageable $30 Sweepercam citation. But the machine can also issue an order for a tow, claims Allen. Lately, a few sweeper-obstructing cars have ended up in an impound lot, forcing drivers to pay large fines. Allen says residents have asked what gives—in the past, the Department of Public Works tended not to cart vehicles off for blocking the Sweepercam. DPW once simply towed the offending cars a block or two away, if they towed them at all. “You can think of it almost like a courtesy tow,” Allen says.
DPW spokeswoman Nancee Lyons says the residents who have been complaining about being towed are mistaken. Her office hasn’t taken any sweeper-obstructing cars. “We actually haven’t been towing anyone,” Lyons says. As for fuming customers who don’t like Sweepercam tickets, Lyons says neighborhood street-sweeping is optional, and residents can discontinue the service if they want. “We’re trying to do what people ask us to do,” says Lyons.