Parking Scofflaws Get the Boot
Seven cars were clamped last year. Last month? Thirty.
Robert Hays found out about the city's parking ticket crackdown the hard way. Hays had 87 unpaid citations. Once his car got slapped with a boot on April 18, he was faced with a decision: Either pay the roughly $4,000 he owed the city or set up separate court dates to contest each violation. Hays chose the latter, and he'll have spent almost two months going to court for several hours nearly every weekday. Hays says instead of the $4,000 he would have had to cough up, he'll pay about $600 in court fees. Many of the tickets have been dismissed, he says, because the officers who issued them haven’t attended the hearings.
"The city should have enforced their parking laws a long time ago," Hays says. "I think a lot of people aren't aware of how many tickets they have, and nothing's happened to them for so long. To all of a sudden start enforcing it can almost ruin people's lives."
Metro Court Spokesperson Janet Blair says each citation usually requires a separate court date. She also says there are no payment plans available for parking tickets. Those who can't afford to pay the city can work off their debt by doing community service at the state's minimum wage, Blair says.
Parking at city meters just got a lot riskier for folks with unpaid citations. If you have three or more tickets and your car is spotted by a parking enforcement officer, it'll probably get a boot clamped on it. No laws have changed, but a few weeks ago, Albuquerque's Parking Division received six new handheld devices that allow officers to immediately check a vehicle's history. Officers can tell on the spot whether the driver of the car they're writing a ticket for has unpaid citations.
The quick access to info has resulted in more than 30 booted cars in the month of May. In contrast, the Parking Division put seven clamps on vehicles during all of last year.
After the boot is on, owners have 72 hours to pay to get it off, or their car is towed and stored at their expense. "I think the number of boots should be a wake-up notice to people who think they're not going to pay their tickets and nothing's going to happen," says Mark Motsko, spokesperson for the Municipal Development Department, which oversees the Parking Division. "Just because it's not a felony, doesn't mean we don't want people to pay."
Revenue collected from violations pays for meters, parking structures, equipment and parking division staff. Motsko says the purpose of paid parking is to ensure a high turnover of cars, which means businesses have a better chance of getting more customers through their doors. "The parking statute has been on the books for a long time," Motsko says. "People are trying to get away with something that, in the long run, is going to be more costly than a quarter in a meter."
Santa Fe has a more lenient way of dealing with parking scofflaws. People with multiple tickets can schedule one court date to deal with all of their citations. People can also set up payment plans with the court so they don't have to pay all of what they owe at once.
After a car owner in the City Different has three or more unpaid citations, they're sent up to four warnings explaining that they must pay their parking tickets. If they still haven't responded, the next time their car is parked illegally, the boot goes on and owners have three days to pay. If they don't, the car is towed. Santa Fe Parking Division Director Bill Hon says it's a drawn-out process for a reason. "We do the best we can to give people due notice," Hon says. "We go that extra step to make sure people understand that we've told and told and told them that their car can be booted."