New York man pockets huge cash for dobbing in law-breaking motorists


A New York citizen has pocketed $US125,000 under the city’s strict ‘idling’ laws designed to curb CO2 emissions.

A New York citizen, Donald Blair, has pocketed around $US125,000 (approx $AUD168,000) for dobbing in drivers of commercial vehicles who flout New York City’s stringent idling laws.

The New York City Administrative Code, Title 24, Section 24-163 states that “idling for longer than three minutes or more than one minute while adjacent to a school is illegal”.

To help combat and police transgressors, NYC has established the Citizens Air Complaint Program which allows for regular citizens to dob in offenders in exchange for a 25 per cent cut of the fine handed out to law breakers. Fines range from $US300 to $US2000 ($AUD400-$2700), depending on the severity of the offence.

That incentive has mobilised an army of citizens, dubbed ‘idle warriors’, looking to make some cash by dobbing in commercial vehicles flouting the law.

In order to claim their reward, an individual must meet strict criteria as set out by the New York City Administrative Code.

As per the Citizen Air Complaint Program, individuals must provide several pieces of evidence including, “a time and date stamped video taken during the time of your observation that captures the truck or bus continuously idling for more than one (1) minute next to a K-12 school or more than three (3) minutes. The sound of the idling engine must be clearly audible on the video. The video must also capture the license plate and the company information/logo of the vehicle”.

Individuals must also provide a sworn affidavit (a statutory declaration). Videos, stills and any documentary evidence must then be uploaded to the NYC Environmental Protection site.

NBC New York reports that around $US2.3 million ($AUD3.1 million) in idling fines have been issued by the City since the scheme’s inception in 2019, a quarter of which have gone to private citizens who have dobbed in excessive idlers.

While plenty of citizens are making extra cash from the scheme, Blair (pictured below) has earned become the poster child for these so-called ‘idle warriors’, already pocketing $US55,000 ($AUD74,000) with another $US70,000 ($AUD94,000) on the way, making him the scheme’s biggest earner, personally pocketing around 17 per cent of the $US725,000 ($AUD972,000) paid out to citizen dobbers under the scheme.

As he told NBC New York, “If you want to change someone’s behaviour, the best way to do it is hit them in the pocket”.

However, it’s likely Blair’s haul could be even higher. NBC New York reports that while over $US2.3 million ($AUD3.1 million) in fines have already been collected, almost $US8 million ($AUD10.7 million) remains either outstanding or in default. And the biggest culprits are some of the world’s best-known companies.

Leading the way is online seller Amazon, with outstanding fines totalling $US252,700 ($AUD338,793). Delivery company UPS has around $US70,000 ($AUD$94,000) in unpaid penalties while FedEx is on the hook for around $US60,000 ($AUD80,400).

Spokespeople for Amazon and UPS stated they are working with the authorities “to resolve” the outstanding fines while a FedEx spokesperson stated “we aways strive to comply [with the law]”.

New York City Comptroller, Brad Lander, warned that companies who defaulted on fines risked having their vehicles impounded.

Rob Margeit has been an automotive journalist for over 20 years, covering both motorsport and the car industry. Rob joined CarAdvice in 2016 after a long career at Australian Consolidated Press. Rob covers automotive news and car reviews while also writing in-depth feature articles on historically significant cars and auto manufacturers. He also loves discovering obscure models and researching their genesis and history.

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