writes: I visited the Albemarle County Fair for the first time this weekend, and it will be my last visit as well. The fair itself was fun, and I especially enjoyed the fiddling contest and the many llamas that were there strutting their stuff. Unfortunately, the day took a dark turn when we left. As my girlfriend waited for a signal to turn out of the parking area onto the road, a friendly traffic management “volunteer” pointed out that the registration tags on her license plate had expired. Two minutes down the road there was a police car behind us with the lights on. You can guess what he pulled us over for. My girlfriend asked him if he was working with the Fair folk and he wouldn’t deny it, saying only that, “they were having a lot of problems.”
The police used the Fair as an opportunity to look for violations and to nab people on the way out. That’s a huge violation of the goodwill of the people who work hard to make the Fair come together. The Fair should be a place where we can all feel a sense of pride in our community. Being picked over by the police department does not give me that sense of pride. We won’t be back next year.
23 thoughts on “Local Police Troll The County Fair”
This reminds me of the last Super Bowl, where people’s faces were scanned electronically to pick out criminals from the crowd of thousands. Now Tampa is using the same technology, and Virginia Beach intends to install the cameras in their downtown area. Getting beyond the issue of using cameras in this 1984ish manner, I think that one problem this is that it aids an air of paranoia to any public gathering.
Is this cooperation between the police and the fair organizers illegal? Of course not. But is it sneaky and unexpected? Definitely. I think that the person that submitted the story summed up the problems pretty well in the last paragraph.
Is the implication that the parking lot attendant was a police officer, incognito? Or perhaps just a citizen volunteer with instructions to report any deviation to the police via walkie talkie? Anyone heard of the Hitler Youth or the Brown Shirts?
When I went to the fair on Sunday the people that I saw directing the traffic in the parking lot were uniformed Albemarle County Sheriff’s deputies. Albemarle County police officers were directing traffic outside of the fair grounds.
Are expired tags really a justification for pulling someone over in the first place? I thought that was more of a parking violation than a moving violation.
Police concentrating their surveillance efforts at popular attractions is not a particularly new tactic; they’ve been doing it for ages. In light of that it’s debatable whether the practice is truly “sneaky and unexpected”; can a well-known standard practice be considered sneaky? And if we’re going to charge police officers with the duty of catching lawbreakers (and pay taxes to support their efforts to discharge that duty), then don’t we want them to do so as efficiently as possible? To some extent we expect that when we go out in a public place we will be seen by a number of people, most of whom will ignore us, but some of whom will take note of our identities or our activities. Some of the latter group might even be police officers looking for an opportunity to write tickets; those are the breaks.
On the other hand, I’m intrigued by the comparison you draw between the Albemarle cops trolling the fair and the face recognition cameras in Tampa because the latter differs from the former only in kind, not in degree; it is in some sense a natural evolution, given the advance of technology. The major difference is that doing things the Albemarle way police face a practical limitation; every prospective violator must be individually inspected by an actual person, and as such you will only ever get to examine a fraction of them. So, for instance, it’s doubtful that the Albemarle police managed to catch every person at the fair with expired tags; a few always slip through the cracks. By contrast, when you introduce cameras and face recognition you remove that practical limitation. From what I understand it’s not too hard to fool the system in its current incarnation, but it’s easy to imagine that before too long we can expect that every person wanted by the police who walks into Centro Ybor will be identified, and the authorities will be alerted.
I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, to the extent that crime is bad, catching criminals is good. I imagine we can all agree that there are some miscreants floating around out there that we all want the police to nab with all possible alacrity. A technology that makes that more likely seems at first blush to be a boon to civilization.
And yet, having been born in a country that was founded by criminals (at least in the eyes of George III), having grown up in a city that was once ruled by pirates (and which celebrates the fact annually), I wonder whether it’s really a good idea to make it too difficult to get away with being a “criminal”. Thing is, you never know when you might have to become a criminal, which is to say that lawmakers are human (at best), and some of the laws they make are ill-conceived (again, at best). Some laws were, literally, made to be broken. Automated surveillance makes it harder to get away with that, and by the time you figure out whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s generally too late to do anything about it.
Then, too, I wonder who watches the watchers. Who has access to this data, and what restrictions are there on the uses to which they can put it? As surveillance becomes easier and cheaper we might well find that the watchers can, as a practical matter, watch for things that would formerly have been beneath their notice. I’m a little uncomfortable that this technology is being deployed when these questions have scarcely been asked, let alone answered.
All of which is, I suppose, rather a long-winded way of saying that I had forgotten that my license plate expires this month, and thanks for reminding me.
The same thing happened to us. When we pulled into the Fair, the deputy sheriff directing traffic at the gate told me to pull over, and I knew why – my tags had expired the day before, and while I had put the new sticker on my rear plate, I had not taken the plastic shield off on my front plate to affix the sticker there. I held up my registration card with the one red “02” still attached, and he let us pass.
While leaving our car, and again upon returning, I noticed deputies walking up and down the rows of parked cars, checking them out pretty closely – tags and stickers – and writing down license numbers. There was indeed a line of county police cars waiting on the road outside the fair. We stopped at the Crossroads Store for a drink, and saw the cops pulling over people left and right.
While I’m sure the police were within their rights to do this, as I’m willing to concede that they were pulling over motorists for legitimate reasons, the entire affair just didn’t pass the smell test.
The fairgrounds are definitely private property, and while obviously the cops were invited onto the property, I doubt they are empowered to ticket such minor administrative violations on private property. How reasonable is it for them to walk up and down, checking out cars, presumably providing the information to cops outside so they can pull over the drivers once they get onto a public street? When are they going to start doing this in private parking lots? Or in driveways?
Then again, they were out there generating revenue for the county, and I guess they have to do something to make up for the car tax revenue shortfall, right?
I won’t be returning to the fair, either. I don’t like the feeling I’m being watched.
Thing is, you never know when you might have to become a criminal, which is to say that lawmakers are human (at best), and some of the laws they make are ill-conceived (again, at best). Some laws were, literally, made to be broken.
This statement is extremely interesting. No doubt many would disagree quite strongly, but I think it’s really quite insightful. I will keep this in mind in life.
would you like a little cheese with that whine. I am tired of hearing people say”I was breaking the law and the police called me on it” . I’ve been ticketed for the same offense. This is nothing like the Super Bowl incident. Driving is a privledge not a right. You were guilty. YOU were responsible. Just because it’s a Fair no laws have not been suspended. If you had simply gone online and payed your renewal there would be no problem. This is the same as not paying your taxes.
Just when would it be convienent for them to pull you over? I would love to hear your answer on that
I hate more than anything when people cheapen the memory of the holocaust with comparison to the trival things of life. Brown shirts, indeed. You tarnish the memory of those who fought to end real evil with your petty problems. You have a right to free speech but it a shame to use it on such a minor matter. I don’t think this is what the soliders of this country had in mind when they gave their all for this country.
Remember the “brown shirt” next time you dial 911.
I agree and share you’re feelings. Like you though, I only clicked on reply without changing the subject.
Thank you! I went to the fair and nobody pulled me over. Of course I didn’t give them a reason to.
The fees are esentially taxes. If you don’t pay yours then the rest of us pay more.
I respect what the Allies fought for very much, and am concerned by the ever-increasing surveillance and control our government exerts. The encroachments on our freedom come gradually and subtly, just as they did in Germany in the 1930s, and I believe we must be eternally vigilant when it comes to making sure our government respects and upholds our rights. So, far from being a trivial concern, I see this matter as indicative of a much larger problem this country faces. (I understand and agree with the police force’s ticketing of motorists with expired tags; it’s the way they went about finding cars with expired tags that I find disconcerting.)
I don’t understand which of my “rights” are not being respected or upheld when police officers walk up and down the parking lot of the fair looking for expired tags and/or ask fair personnel to point out cars with expired tags (if indeed there was an agreement between fair personnel and police). Which of my freedoms are being encroached upon–my freedom to avoid being caught for not paying registration fees? It seems like you’re conflating the right to privacy with some kind of right to secrecy.
I forgot to get my car inspected last year, and I got busted for it when I pulled into line at the bank…right behind a police cruiser. He glanced in his rear view mirror, must have seen my blatantly expired inspection sticker, and so as soon as I drove away from the bank, there he was behind me with flashing lights. I got a ticket, I paid the fine, I got my car inspected. I didn’t feel violated. I actually admired the guy’s attentiveness to detail in reading my inspection sticker through his rear-view mirror.
I just get so sick of hearing about all of our damn inviolate rights.
I can’t put my finger on what makes this weird — I hope I made it clear with my reply, citing the Super Bowl case, that it was the awkwardness of the situation that was similar, not the policing via cameras.
Perhaps I can’t get past the feeling that the fair is colluding with the police? Or perhaps even that the fair is just a reason to get people together to see what laws they’re breaking? That’s obviously irrational, but maybe that’s what I find so sneaky.
I don’t think that the original author was complaining about convenience, just that it felt like a set-up. At least, I think that’s how I would have felt — maybe I’m projecting. :)
I agree. I don’t think the police broke any laws doing what they did, but their actions seem underhanded, sneaky, covert (obviously, that’s debatable). It would be one thing to use those techniques to investigate a specific crime that had already been committed, but to use those techniques in dragnet fashion to look for law violations is unsettling. If you’re parking on private property and police will be scrutinizing your vehicle, I think you should know about it ahead of time. But attendance at the Fair probably would have been much lower if there had been signs proclaiming that cars parked on the grounds were subject to police examination. It would be neat to reprint these threads next year, a week or so before the Fair, just to keep people informed, so they know what to expect.
I was thinking about what I wrote about the police’s actions not being illegal. Now I’m not so sure. If there are any legal experts out there, it would be great to get their input. But my understanding is this: it is illegal for police to come on to private property and ticket a vehicle for expired tags, expired state inspection, etc. I’m guessing that’s why the police didn’t write tickets while actually on the Fairgrounds. So for them to collect information from cars on private property and then just sit there and wait for the cars to pull onto a public road…that seems sketchy.
Are you also going to stop parking at shopping centers in the county? The County Police have been going into shopping centers and other parking lots for years looking for cars that don’t have county stickers and then ticketing them. They do it between calls.
I doubt the fair organizers had any role in the ticketing. The people I saw directing traffic on Sunday were Albemarle County Deputies not fair volunteers.
I think you’re upset because you got caught.
I think the spirit originally expressed has been lost in this lively thread. I don’t read any whining in the original post. The central comment to me is: The police used the Fair as an opportunity to look for violations and to nab people on the way out. That’s a huge violation of the goodwill of the people who work hard to make the Fair come together. The Fair should be a place where we can all feel a sense of pride in our community. Being picked over by the police department does not give me that sense of pride.
There were a lot of county cops pulling people over on Saturday, and it would be surprising if most of them weren’t pulling overtime (if they weren’t, the rest of the county was virtually unprotected). It was a very systematic operation, and it was unsettling, particularly in light of the current woes the county police are enduring regarding inappropriate actions. You’d think the leadership would put their best foot forward, particularly at a large public gathering that is experiencing their own woes.
To me, this isn’t a case of “everybody who got pulled over deserved it, so THERE.” And while it is neither an overt move toward a police state, nor a vigorous protection of civil liberties, it is somewhere in the middle, which is not a good place for the police to be.
Well put! A good analysis of this conversation and the actual event.
Very nicely said.
“There were a lot of county cops pulling people over on Saturday, and it would be surprising if most of them weren’t pulling overtime (if they weren’t, the rest of the county was virtually unprotected). It was a very systematic operation, and it was unsettling, particularly in light of the current woes the county police are enduring regarding inappropriate actions.”
Yes it seems totally wrong that police would take the time to do their duty. Overtime or not makes no difference. NEWS FLASH- big public gatherings are a great place to look for violations. High percentage of local residents and lots of cars. If you would like to enjoy the Fair and not be bother, pay your taxes and fees.
For those of you that are unaware the county has a police department and a sheriffs department. Sheriffs were handling the fair- the police were on patrol. Your snide aside of the county being unprotected is a unimformed opinion to malign many good people who are ask to put themselves in harms way to protect you and your property.
And in light of the polices “current woes” what the heck does that mean? Because one county policemen is “alleged” to have done something the county sheriffs should suspend their oaths because you were there to have fun.
Pay you taxes follow the law. If you do that and they still bother you let me know- then I will fight by your side. Don’t ask for my sympathy when you “feel” like you been violated.
I see the police apologists have arrived.
Yes, God forbid you should try and argue when it’s so much easier to attack the writer than say why they are wrong. Though you must have neglected to read that should your “actual rights” be violated the author would be willing to help.
Yes by all means attack the mesenger.
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