July 11, 2014 in City

Spokane to give parking scofflaws the boot

By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Spokane Parking Enforcement Officer Josh Weigelt demonstrates installation of an immobilization boot on a car. The city of Spokane plans to use boots to immobilize vehicles that have been connected to multiple unpaid parking citations.
(Full-size photo)

The dreaded parking boot is back.

Spokane city officials brought out the boot Thursday to show what’s waiting for parking ticket scofflaws when they get caught parking downtown again.

The wheel lock “boot” device is being reintroduced to the city arsenal after an absence of more than 25 years.

Vehicle owners with four or more unpaid violations will be subject to having their rides immobilized with the heavy steel locking device. The city has purchased 10 of them.

“Don’t drive with the boot on,” said city spokeswoman Julie Happy, because the boot will damage the vehicle.

Owners will have to pay their fines, and accumulated penalties and interest, before the city will remove the boot.

According to city records, there are 2,778 owners with four or more citations, for a total of 27,785 tickets. Those tickets are worth $1.2 million, not counting the additional costs attached to not paying for them.

On top of that, the city has 73,000 unpaid tickets worth $3.8 million.

The city ended a 60-day amnesty program for unpaid tickets on July 1 as a lead-up to bringing back the boot.

A total of 433 owners paid off more than 2,000 tickets at a value of $89,000. A total of $90,000 in collection fees and interest were waived.

Now, the city is sending scofflaws notice that their vehicles are subject to impoundment with the boot starting later this month.

The city also is employing new technology to more easily find parking scofflaws.

The parking meter department has replaced one of its miniature enforcement vehicles with a new Ford Focus that looks like a miniature police car and is equipped with a light bar and automated license plate readers.

A parking patrol officer will start cruising downtown streets letting the license plate recognition system find the violators. The system also will help find stolen vehicles.

In addition, the technology will allow officers to find people who are parking downtown in a single spot and then refilling time on the meter so they can remain parked beyond the time limit on the meter.

“What we are trying to do is get the turnover” in parking, which is seen as a benefit to business trade, said Dave Steele, parking manager.

Until now, workers downtown have used shorter-term meters for longer parking periods by simply refilling the meter when time was about to expire.

The license plate reader system has cameras to take pictures of the location of the tire air valve, which can be used as proof that the driver did not move the vehicle after the time limit had been reached. The work is done automatically with the reader technology, Steele said.

Additional funding from the increased enforcement will go into a fund for street improvements, such as safer crosswalks, new street trees, better lighting and other amenities.

Steele said the city estimates a $250,000 increase in revenue for 2014 under the boot and bust program.

The combined revenue from parking meters and enforcement is expected to reach $4.3 million for this year.

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