City finds drivers with more than 100 unpaid tickets
Parking scofflaws have been spared the "Denver Boot" -- for now -- but they may be in for more problems. City parking enforcers are working to give ticket agents instant access to chronic offender data as they walk the streets.
City Councilmember Barbara Johnson (4th Ward) had asked staff to investigate the Denver Boot as an enforcement option to increase revenue and reduce impound lot use.
The boot is a kind of large mechanical padlock that attaches to a vehicle's front wheel and prevents owners from driving away until they pay parking fines. Denver was one of the first cities to use it.
The boot could make the city friendlier, Johnson said. People wouldn't have to go to the impound lot to get their car back, and the boot would reduce towing damage claims.
At a recent meeting of the Council's Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, Pamela Selinski, supervisor of parking and traffic control, said a boot might run afoul of the city's contract with towing companies.
Under city ordinance, parking scofflaws (those with five or more tickets 30 days overdue) can be immediately towed. If parking agents find a scofflaw, they call a "white tag" tow and wait with the vehicle. By contract, the tow truck has to arrive within a half hour.
The city signed new contracts with multiple towing companies last fall. They run through September 2005 and have a three-year extension option.
"They bid their contract based on what they anticipate being able to tow," Selinski said.
She said the city attorney needs to look at the contract to see if adding the Denver Boot would illegally change its basis.
Boot or no boot, parking scofflaw enforcement is evolving.
The city used to get scofflaw information from Hennepin County unpaid-ticket warrants. The county stopped issuing warrants and began garnering parking ticket money from an individual's state tax refunds, Selinski said.
The city could still have obtained scofflaw information from county databases but lost access during a computer changeover and only recently got reconnected. In January, the city found five vehicles with more than 100 outstanding tickets each -- a figure Selinski said even surprised her.
Currently, parking agents do not actively seek out known scofflaws, Selinski said. If agents recognize cars they have tagged before, they may call the office and ask for a computer check.
Soon, agents may not have to call at all -- once staff works out the system to download the county's scofflaw list directly to parking agents' computers.
"Somewhere in the near future, we hope to have our ticket writers downloaded with that information so when they are out there and they write a ticket, if there is a scofflaw, it will pop up on the computer," Selinski said.
As for the boot, Selinski said she had more questions than answers. Are there other alternatives that would have the same impact? How would the city communicate to the public about the boot? What happens when a car with a boot needs to be towed?
The Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee voted to direct staff to investigate a boot pilot project that had as its main goal reducing impound lot use.
Selinski will report back to the committee Wednesday, March 3.