SCRANTON -- Few things are more annoying than finding a parking ticket tucked under a windshield wiper when you return to your car. No matter where it happens, you will be faced with a fine.
But thousands in northeastern and central Pennsylvania are not paying those fines and running up an eye-opening number of tickets.
We looked at the five largest counties in northeastern and central Pennsylvania and found more than 32,000 parking violations in the past five years where people have not paid their fines.
Those who do pay the fines are the ones feeling violated.
On a weekday morning at Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton, street-side parking spots are hard to find. Most who find a spot pay for the right to park for a short spell.
"I do carry a pocket full of change to feed the meters all the time," Jim Claffey said.
The last thing people like Claffey want is a parking meter violation and a $10 fine if he pays up right away, which he always does.
"If it becomes known that I have any outstanding situations like that, I can get in a lot of trouble with the company I work for," he said.
Enforcement is largely a matter of fairness. Most people feed the meters, and when the meter expires and they get tickets, most people pay the fines.
A Newswatch 16 investigation found 32,000 unpaid parking violations in northeastern and central Pennsylvania's five largest counties in the past five years.
PARKING VIOLATIONS BY COUNTY
Lackawanna - 16,605
Luzerne - 13,260
Monroe - 3,072
Lycoming - 440
Schuylkill - 85
If ticketing agencies collected just $15 for each unpaid ticket, it would net $488,220 for communities, parking authorities, or nonprofit agencies.
PARKING VIOLATIONS BY CITY
Scranton - 16,394
Wilkes-Barre - 9,260
Hazleton - 2,060
Stroudsburg - 1,912
East Stroudsburg - 1,156
More than half of the total parking citations in our area are written in the city of Scranton, and when people challenge or ignore the tickets, most cases head to Judge Alyce Farrell's court on North Washington Avenue.
That includes the cases involving Alex Burda of Scranton who works at the Lackawanna County Register of Wills office downtown.
According to state records, Burda has 215 unpaid parking tickets in the past five years.
"How do you run up so many parking tickets?"
"To be quite honest with you, I don't know. That's why I'm here," Burda replied.
Burda has so many outstanding tickets, Judge Farrell issued a warrant for his arrest.
Records show Burda has 91 parking violations in 2017 alone.
For that, the judge ordered he pay more than $6,700 by December 16.
"I'm not happy. That's why I'm here, but I can't dispute something I don't have in hand," Burda said, adding he had no idea how many tickets he had.
Alexander Burda - 215
Aileen Freeman - 159
Poussain and Dora Elias - 156
Daniel J. Smith - 141
Timothy Blaine - 139
Nicholas Chestnut - 102
Maria S. Maroun - 100
Antonio Russo - 92
Larry Moran Jr. - 96
Paul Galante - 84 *(now paid)
Our check of court records shows Burda has the most violations of anyone in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.
Aileen Freeman, age 88, is second on the list with 159 tickets. She left Scranton a year ago.
Poussain and Dora Elias have tickets in Scranton but live in Easton. We were unable to contact either of them.
Go down the list a little more, and you'll find Larry Moran Jr. and Paul Galante, with tickets in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. They're both lawyers.
Dorthea Vance is mad. She recently moved to Scranton from Tennessee to look for work and housing and lives out of her van for now.
"That's just unforgivable because I'm homeless right now. And I just paid," Vance said. "If you're going to use the meter, you should pay."
Attorneys Moran and Galante said no to our request for an on-camera interview.
Galante credited Newswatch 16 for bringing it to his attention and paid almost $13,000 to erase the 84 unpaid tickets from his record.
One community is cracking down. Wilkes-Barre started using the boot this year, a clamp that keeps a car in place, while the city forces scofflaws to pay $100 plus some or all of their unpaid fines.
"It's becoming a big deterrent right now," said Tom Unvarsky, Wilkes-Barre Parking Enforcement.
The city recently collected $2,000 from a Wilkes University student who racked up dozens of tickets as parking enforcement workers target chronic violators.
"So far, up to this date, we've collected over $17,000 in fines, and that's just with one boot," Unvarsky said.
Wilkes-Barre is now considering getting a second boot for its parking enforcement. Most other communities in our area do not use the boot.
ABM Parking-- the New York-based nonprofit that operates parking in Scranton where there are more than 16,000 unpaid parking tickets--did not return our calls.