A squad of New York City residents are racking up significant payouts for filming and reporting idling trucks, according to a new report from the New York Times.
The March 19, 2022, New York Times report — titled ‘$87.50 for 3 Minutes: Inside the Hot Market for Videos of Idling Trucks’ — connects readers to a group of approximately 20 New Yorkers who regularly report idling trucks in order to collect a portion of the fine.
The group call themselves “Idling Warriors” and are responsible for a majority of the anti-idling reports filed in the city.
A New York City clean-air program invites — and pays — people to report trucks that are parked and idling for more than three minutes, or one minute if outside a school. Some of those complaints turn menacing when drivers react. https://t.co/5ruVSyg86k
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 21, 2022
New York City has had anti-idling laws on the books for decades, but over the past several years, a new program has encouraged locals to earn a profit for taking the law into their own hands.
The Citizens Air Complaint Program has been in place since 2018 and allows residents to go online to report illegally idling trucks and buses in exchange for cash — namely, 25% of the $350 or higher fine imposed on the commercial vehicle driver. To report an idling truck or bus, residents must submit a video showing the vehicle idling for longer than the legal limit of three minutes. The video must also show the name of the trucking company.
The program does not allow for idling complaints to be filed against passenger vehicles.
According to the New York Times report, the city has paid out $1.1 million in anti-idling “bounties” since 2019. Eighty-one year old New Yorker Paul Slapikas earned $64,000 in 2021 alone through the program.
In February 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio raised the profile of the Citizens Air Complaint Program when he unveiled a splashy new ad campaign called “Billy Never Idles” featuring rocker Billy Idol designed to “declare war” on idling vehicles in New York City.
“If you don’t do the right thing and you’re idling, we’re coming for you,” de Blasio says pic.twitter.com/S7JGwKOPYT
— Matthew Chayes (@chayesmatthew) February 27, 2020
In the VICE video below, environmental activist George Pakenham shows reporters exactly how he banked thousands of dollars by submitting evidence of idling commercial vehicles. In the 2019 video, he says he had earned $9000 for submitting 120 idling complaints. By February 2020, he says he’s earned around $17,000.
For more information on the Citizens Air Complaint Program, you can click here.