Scofflaws and Debt Collectors

This project takes the routine experience of parking tickets as a window onto the history of privatization and urban governance in the post-Civil Rights era.

Beginning in the late 1960s, in the context of tax revolts and increased fiscal stress, ‘scofflaws,’ or those who refused to pay parking citations became both a social problem and potential revenue solution. American cities increasingly partnered with corporate debt collectors to replenish municipal coffers. Often, the contracts ended in scandal and corruption, and very little return for cities. Ironically, many cities often spent more to collect than they took in. Interns working on this multi-city study of inequality, Black politics, and public-private partnerships will help assemble an archive of dispersed city government finance documents, online newspapers and trade bulletins, and corporate records. This will require the geocoding of various city finance documents. There will be further opportunities to contribute to the examination and analysis of revenue patterns, and the extent to which fares, fines, forfeitures, and licensing fees were the product of political struggle. Ultimately, this project will offer a network visualization of debt collection.

Core People