UPDATE: Reader Donald Gately writes:
Local governments are clearly shifting from chasing criminals to chasing revenue. Which, from the point of view of their own self-interest, makes a lot of sense.
Let’s say that you are a local government, and you think of your budget as YOUR resources and not those of your constituents. You have a choice of two broad strategies (or a mix thereof): either pursue actual criminals for CRIMINAL OFFENSES, a process which requires the expenditure of resources and can be hard/dangerous work. Or you can pick on generally law-abiding citizens for civil offenses via revenue light cameras, roadside BAC screenings, “driving while talking” laws, seatbelt enforcement, aggressive parking enforcement, laws limiting grass/weed height, etc. While those non-criminals may sometimes show up in court to fight the charge, they typically don’t run or put up much of a fight (physical or otherwise). They pay their fines and get on with working, raising their families, paying their taxes, etc.
Given the quality of our political class, and given how many bureaucrats and government employees see their job as a birthright rather than a solemn responsibility, it should come as no surprise that taxpayers are getting it from both ends, and are seen as prey for both criminals and bureaucrats.