Chevy Chase residents say they are getting more than they bargained for now that the Metropolitan Police Department is providing steady, overnight patrols in their Northwest neighborhood. They say officers are ticketing their vehicles for everything from parking too close to a driveway to having improperly affixed stickers.
“The objection here is to action that is being taken in the middle of the night by a police department that appears to be focused on making a fast buck by skulking around while residents sleep,” resident Simon Marks wrote on an online forum. “I have simply never heard of parking tickets being issued at 3 a.m. to residents who have parked their cars outside their own homes. It’s senseless and not the kind of additional parking enforcement that will make any of us safer.”
An official in the police department’s 2nd District, which includes Chevy Chase, said officers walk the neighborhood for several hours overnight and must have something to show for their work. When no crimes are being committed and there are no criminals to arrest, he said, ticketing illegally parked cars is productive work.
“They have to show some type of productivity during the night,” Capt. Willie Smith said. “We have anywhere from 30 to 40 officers working all night in the Second District, and there’s two to four in that [area]. If they come in without any tickets, no arrests, no truck stops … they could be challenged by their superiors.”
The majority of tickets issued in Chevy Chase throughout the early-morning hours last week were for minor infractions and included ones for expired registrations, blocking a driveway and parking too close to an intersection.
At least a dozen residents, who were surprised last week to wake up and find the tickets on their cars, have vented on a community e-mail forum.
Some said they were not aware that they had done something illegal, such as having too many registration stickers on a vehicle window, a violation that carries a $20 fine.
Mary Myers, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works, the agency primarily responsible for parking infractions, said city parking laws are not available online. The only way for residents to learn parking rules is to go to a D.C. government office to purchase the related documents or to find them at a public library, she said.
Some residents said they welcome the additional police coverage to curb the nonviolent crime in their relatively safe neighborhood, despite the aggressive ticketing.
There were 102 instances of theft in the 2nd District last month, but no homicides, according to the police department.
“We have our share of vandalism,” said Chevy Chase resident Sue Hemberger. “You have days where you have three dozen cars in a row get hit, so there’s thefts from auto and vandalism. … It seems unreasonable to me to demand more enforcement and then complain when you get it.”
Officials with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 3/4G said residents should not complain to the police department because officers could be reassigned to areas with higher violent-crime rates.
“On the one hand, we can complain about it,” said Cris Fromboluti, a commissioner with ANC 3/4G. “But on the other hand, if we complain that [police officers] are here, maybe they will be taken away. And we don’t want that.”