Weds morning, July 4, 2012 – less than 24 hrs after being made one of the newest editors here at CopBlock.org – I take my dog out at my apartment complex near Aiken, SC, and find three Aiken County Sheriff’s Department patrol cars idling around the parking lot, driving around, talking to each other, and basically ignoring most normal parking lot traffic patterns.
I admit, this caught me a bit off guard, so I started watching what they were doing. It turned out that they were placing some form of green paper to what appeared at first to be random cars’ drivers’ windows. At this point, my wife had come out and began investigating with me, out of sheer curiosity. Since one of the cars that had gotten one of these green stickers was near our own cars, she went over to read what it said and came back and told me that it was some kind of tag verification thing.
About this time, someone came down from one of the upstairs apartments and asked us if we knew what was going on, and we told her what we knew at this point. She said that she had been visiting her daughter that morning, and that she actually lived in Georgia. This got me thinking, and I used walking my dog as a convenient cover for walking around most of my complex. While originally it looked like these green stickers went on just cars with Georgia tags – not a single car with South Carolina tags had a green sticker – I soon realized that they were on any car without SC plates, as two cars with tags from Northeastern states parked in front of a building that was opened just last week also had the green stickers. Upon talking to one of the people who appeared to own one of the Northeastern cars, I found out that apparently this was a student at nearby University of South Carolina- Aiken who was just moving in this week.
Finally, I met another lady who it turned out lives right across the hall from me who apparently works in Georgia and still owns a home there that her mother in law is living in, but who lives here. She was gracious enough to allow me to scan one of the stickers that were placed on both of her cars, and you can read for yourself what it says here.
It was blatantly a revenue generation scheme, as talking to my wife she says there was never any correlation made by the cops on addresses, makes, models, or any other thing that would allow said cops to come back and identify particular cars that had gotten this citation, and apparently the case numbers were exactly the same on all cars as well. Thus, the Aiken County Sheriff’s Department was blatantly relying on fear to “enforce” this “law”. (Though the articles linked below indicate that the primary Deputy running this racket uses his iPad to track these cars, meaning he could have been doing something to identify them that was unseen from my wife’s vantage point.)
Upon doing more research later that day, I came across two media articles within the past couple of weeks that detailed what was going on (WRDW, North Augusta Star). Apparently, Deputy Brad Terry had his job changed last October to take him off finding true criminals and tasked with going after people who have harmed no one, in order to steal from these peaceful people. And apparently, he has been so successful that he both brags about raising more than enough money to cover his own salary and enticing the Aiken County Board of Commissioners to add another “cop” whose sole purpose is harassment of their peaceful subjects. At least one lawyer who was contacted online says there is little that can be done to avoid this.
However, at least one more interesting question comes to my mind. Per the sticker itself and the two news articles, it seems that anyone who so much as drives within South Carolina for more than 150 days is required to pay this ransom. I don’t know if any of you are in this area/ know much about it (and if you are in this area, please contact me), but one of the major employers here is the Savannah River Site, where much of the nation’s governmental nuclear waste is disposed of and where nearly every single thermonuclear warhead in the US stockpile gets its tritium from. From past experience working out there, I know that of the 10,000 or so people that work out there, some noticeable percentage of them live in Georgia, usually somewhere in the greater Augusta area. My own understanding of this law from the notice and the news articles is that if these people work at the Site longer than 5 months, they are “required” to pay this ransom. I’m genuinely curious of a) how many of them know about this “requirement”, b) how many of them actually pay the ransom, and c) how “law enforcement” “enforces” this “requirement”?
Before this incident Wednesday morning, I had never heard of this particular tactic. I contacted Pete, and he was unfamiliar with this as well. So we decided I should put this out to make the community aware that this is happening, and see if any of you have had similar experiences. I know from my own experience talking to my across the hall neighbor that for the libertarian/ voluntarist among us, this was a GREAT opportunity to explain the basics of what we believe in a way that is immediately applicable, and it could also lead to some interesting advocacy fights for those so inclined, particularly in this age of rising anger about being “taxed enough already”.