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Cityscape: Volume 18 Number 1 | Article 5


Contesting the Streets

Volume 18, Number 1

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Fining the Hand That Feeds You: Situational and Violation-Specific Factors Influencing New York City Street Vendor Default in Payment

Kathryn A. Carroll
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sean Basinski
Urban Justice Center

Alfonso Morales
University of Wisconsin-Madison


A large portion of levied street-vending fines in New York City (NYC) historically have gone unpaid. In 2009 alone, the NYC Independent Budget Office estimated street-vending fine enforcement cost more than $7 million (Turetsky, Vega, and O’Brien, 2010). Rather than generating revenue from the associated $15 million in written fines, approximately 93 percent of these potential returns went uncollected. While legislative victories in 2013 for street vendors resulted in lower fine levels for some violations, no further policy changes have occurred.

Given the high public cost associated with street-vending fine enforcement, a better understanding of the violation-specific and situational factors that influence default in payment is needed. This article represents a step in that direction from the enforcement perspective. We define violation-specific factors to include ticket attributes, such as whether the cited statute is “crystal clear” or “muddy” in terms of its interpretation. Situational factors include attributes such as the borough location of the proposed transgression.

Using data from more than 25,000 2010 NYC vending citations, we estimate the influence of several factors on the probability of citation nonpayment via a binary logit model and subsequent odds ratios. Our results suggest that more crystal-clear violation statutes and lower fine amounts could help manage public enforcement costs. We conclude that enforcement agencies should take into account both situational and violation-specific factors when ticketing street vendors as a means to both combat the public cost of vending regulation enforcement and improve current policy.

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