Washington, D.C., is an unusual city, with an unusual license plate. You’ve probably seen the blue tags with the word “Diplomat” at the top. The plates are issued by the State Department to people here in the United States from other countries. Diplomats are required to pay parking tickets, red light tickets and speeding tickets. But some diplomats aren’t paying up.
The News 4 I-Team obtained a list of embassies that don't pay their tickets in the District. Cameroon tops the list with 317 unpaid tickets, totaling more than $25,000 in fines. The embassy did not reply to our calls or emails for comment.
The list is a lot shorter in Montgomery County. There’s a good reason for that, according to Capt. Thomas Didone, director of the Traffic Division for the Montgomery County Police Department. He told the News4 I-Team, “When you contacted us and brought to our attention and asked how many diplomatic citations were issued, we checked our records and found out that we hadn't been issuing citations to diplomats."
Didone explained the county hired a new company two years ago to issue camera tickets, which was supposed to mark down the state where the license plate is registered. The letters "MD" are used for Maryland and "VA" for Virginia. But Didone says the company didn't know diplomatic tags should be marked as "US." So, the company threw those tickets out. "We were not aware of that the diplomatic citations weren't being issued. As such, we made a correction and starting in April we began issuing citations," said Didone.
Didone provided the News4 I-Team a copy of all the tickets issued to vehicles registered to embassies since then. It totals about 116 tickets, which adds up to about $5,000 in fines. He said, so far, 78 percent of the tickets have been paid, which is about the same rate as the general population.
"Thanks to you and Channel 4, you brought this to our attention and now we're issuing tickets to our diplomats," said Didone. He said now everyone, including the diplomatic community, will get the message to slow down or pay up.