Friday, September 01, 2006

Privatizing Hell

I received a bill the other day.
It came from the ominously named Law Enforcement Systems, Inc. (LES) based in Long Island City, New York, and it claimed I owed $109.

The letter warned me that if I didn't send Law Enforcement Systems a check or money order by September 25, 2006, LES planned to "Enter a Civil Judgment and execute against my non-exempt assets ... (and forward my) account to the State Franchise Tax Board for offset..." among other ugly threats.

I try to pay my bills on time although occasionally things go amiss, but I'd never done business with, or even heard of Law Enforcement Systems. Looking more closely I discovered LES was a collection agency, "retained by The City of Oakland, CA to collect delinquent, unpaid parking citations."

No. Not another privatized government service. These private agencies have no accountability, a huge profit motive and too much of the authority and resources of government.

Privatized governmental services are the Republican Party's dream cash machine and the average citizens' nightmare.
While municipal employees frequently are notoriously and frankly indifferent to your plight, the good thing is they just don't care. The folks who work for privatized government services are much worse. They care about your problem but only insofar as their masters can profit.

This Republican scheme, turning everything the government does into a profit center, is one of the most pernicious and horrific items of that party's agenda.

Whether it's military mercenaries or vouchers for private schools or for-profit health care or privatized revenue collection, the transfer of responsibility from the public sector to the private sector is an unqualified disaster. While the rightwingnuts love to talk about the incompetence of government, most governmental agencies are a paragon of virtue, competence, clarity and charity compared with the standard operating procedures of big business.

Need a great program to track your pogroms? Call IBM as the Nazis did during the WWII build up.
Need a nuclear reactor for your nascent weapons of mass destruction program? Call Halliburton as Saddam Hussein did during the Gulf War build up.

From General Motors to Monsanto, from British Petroleum to Westinghouse, from Anheuser-Busch to United Fruit, big business has never given a damn about the people it caters to or the people it steals from, and it's always been more than willing to brandish the biggest, scariest, sharpest sword in its possession, the U.S. military machine, when its profits are even modestly threatened.

And now I was dead smack in the sights of the privatized hell of contracted government services. Law Enforcement Systems is: "Recognized since 1982 as the leading violation collection agency in the US. First in violation processing, revenue maximization...," it claims on the first page of its website.

Having allowed parking tickets to accrue with horrific results during my misspent youth, I'm nearly religious about promptly paying parking tickets. That little municipal scam has cost me thousands and thousands of dollars so I don't let parking tickets age at all. If I get a parking ticket I pay it immediately, whether or not I believe the ticket was fair or reasonable. It's just cheaper and easier that way.

But this parking citation had a bad smell. The date, more than three years prior, didn't jibe with my annual car registration fees. As everyone probably knows, you can't register your vehicle if there are unpaid parking tickets. The other problem was the location of the citation. A rather seedy part of town that isn't anywhere near my normal wanderings.

Then I noticed license plate for the offending vehicle was completely foreign. I don't go around memorizing license plates but everyone has a vague sense of numbers and letters on their own license plate(s) and this wasn't at all familiar.

Bingo! This little misunderstanding was going to be easy to wrap up.
Not my car, not my problem. All I had to do was let LES know.

I called Law Enforcement Systems and spoke with a woman named "Ann." When I asked her how to identify her for my records by something other than "Ann," she allowed as how she was "Ann, in customer service." Great, we're clearly off to a less than perfect start. Ann tells me that it pretty much doesn't matter what I say, they're not going to back off until I provide them with written proof that I didn't own or rent the vehicle when the ticket was issued.... three and half years ago!

She tells me I have go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a printed history of the car, which I can send to LES, thereby proving I'm not liable. I tell her that ain't gonna happen. It's LES's bill, it's LES's problem. LES can get the history of the vehicle as easily as I can, and when they do they'll see it ain't me. She warns me. I warn her. Before we hang up I insist they correct their records and stop their collection efforts.

Not wanting to leave matters to chance I spend the next several hours surfing the DMW website and voice mail system for vehicle history request forms. Finally I get a DMV human on the phone. She says her name is "Tech KF", and tells me I need DMV form INF 70R, which I can download from the net (maybe, but I couldn't find it) or pickup at the local DMV (after waiting in line for hours). If I mail a completed form INF 70R and $5 to Sacramento, they'll send me a vehicle history report, which I can then forward to Law Enforcement Systems.

I ask her if she has any other information about the offending vehicle.
"It was a 1983 Nissan and it was junked for salvage December 6, 2004," said Tech KF.

Great. I've never owned a Nissan. Now I have a junked car with no provenance in one hand and a threatening letter from a collection agency in the other. And I can't even call the local City of Oakland Parking Finance and Management department to get a local human to fix this nightmare.

Refusing to surrender to the inevitability of my serf-like state, I sent an email detailing all the information I had to (Law Enforcement Systems) and (City of Oakland Parking Finance and Management). Both those contact addresses were available after a little searching on Goggle.

In closing I informed them both: "You are hereby ordered to correct your records and to immediately cease and desist in all collection efforts regarding this matter. You will be held liable for my time and expenses should you fail to follow this instruction."

We'll see what happens next.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What ended up happening? I got a letter from them today regarding a citation that was issued 38 months ago.

Fortunately I know the number of the check I used to pay the ticket. I'm not looking forward to paying a "research fee" to my bank, but...

5:21 PM  
Blogger Fred Dodsworth said...

They backed down, but that hasn't stopped them from sending me more of these vile dishonest dunning letters. Now I call them, get the name of the person I'm talking to, ask for their supervisor, inform the supervisor that I have the canceled check with the ticket citation number printed on it and that I look forward to becoming involved in a lawsuit if they continue their harassment.
I received a letter of apology from LES just last week for their latest scam billing attempt.
By the by, I do have the canceled checks or on-line payment records and I am willing to push this as far as it will go. Good luck in your efforts.

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Fred, I noticed your post as I was doing a google search for "Duncan Solutions" the company that bought out LES Inc. (Law Enforcement Systems) in 2008, in order to file a complaint. Richard Carrier is still the President of the Company and Dawn Carrier the person you sent your email to is there as well. Anyway I have a situation similar to the one you had a few years back, but they actually were able to "intercept" my franchise tax refund ($174.00) for parking tickets my car received 7 months after I had traded it in to the Honda dealer. Apparently they subcontract for the Cities of Inglewood and Alhambra, CA. the tickets occurred in Alhambra. What kind of scam are they running?

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad I found this online. I have received calls and letters from LES too, but I KNOW I don't owe these tickets. I didn't even live in that state at that time. These tickets are about 8 yrs old. I knew right away it was a scam!!

12:45 PM  

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