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Opinion

Sat., May 3, 2014

Editorial: Last chance for parking scofflaws to avoid boot

The city of Spokane has been exceedingly patient with parking violators, and now it’s giving them one last chance.

The city announced Thursday that people have until the end of June to settle their tickets at face value, meaning late fees and interest have been waived. The discount ends July 1, at which point those with four or more unpaid tickets could have their vehicles immobilized with wheel-locking devices called boots. If fines aren’t paid within 48 hours, booted cars will be towed. Then scofflaws will have to pay all fines in full to get their cars back.

The city is owed $3.9 million on 76,000 unpaid tickets, which shows that many drivers don’t take the infractions seriously. About 2,900 license plates are “boot-eligible,” meaning they’re associated with accounts with four or more tickets.

Then there are the super-violators.

In December, when the City Council unanimously passed the boot ordinance, 10 people accounted for more than 2,000 outstanding citations. Back then there were 84,000 outstanding tickets, or 9,000 more than now.

Word of the parking ticket amnesty program has spread quickly across newspapers, television, radio and social media, and scofflaws are responding. The city reports that since the announcement, the phones have been busy at Valley Empire Collection (800-669-8139), the contractor in charge of unpaid tickets.

A flood of media coverage also accompanied the council’s adoption of the ordinance late last year. The worst offenders have received notices in the mail. So there’s really no excuse for serial parking violators to be unaware of the amnesty program and coming boot program.

Nobody’s happy it’s come to this, but the number of unpaid tickets has made a mockery of enforcement. Why pay when you can keep racking up tickets without consequences?

The city stopped using boots in 1988, when worries about legal challenges arose. But those concerns have been allayed and boots are making a comeback. Boise, Olympia and Seattle have all adopted ordinances in recent years targeting the worst offenders. A year after implementing its boot law, Seattle collected $2.8 million from its frequent violators, and the number of people with four or more tickets declined.

When the first car is immobilized this summer, it’s sure to make headlines. But it shouldn’t be news to violators. They’ve been given sufficient warning.

Pay the fines or get the boot.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.

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