- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The District has one of the most-aggressive campaigns among U.S. cities to clamp down on motorists with outstanding parking tickets, collecting more than $3.3 million last year by immobilizing vehicles with mechanical “boots” until the fines are paid.

Boot crews in the District in the past two years outpace those in Arlington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and San Francisco. A crew in Baltimore last year, for example, booted seven cars a day, while those in the District got 18, according to D.C. budget documents.

D.C. officials say booting is often the only way to get out-of-state drivers to pay.

“Parking tickets received in D.C. by drivers from Maryland and Virginia never need to be paid because those states do not require D.C. parking tickets to be satisfied before renewing the driver’s license or the vehicle’s registration,” the documents state. “Booting out-of-state scofflaw vehicles ensures that the tickets are paid.”

Crews have plenty of targets with as many as 40,000 vehicles a day in the District eligible to have the orange, metal device clamped onto a wheel of their vehicle, according to the documents.

Michelle Williams, 30, of the District cried yesterday upon exiting a courthouse to see one attached to her car.

Miss Williams, who had to pay a $50 boot-removal fee and $435 in overdue tickets, said witnesses in court cases should get an exemption card or some other parking relief when they have to testify in court.

“I just gave away $500,” she said.

The District also is using high-tech equipment to help in the search for delinquent ticket payers.

Linda Grant, a D.C. Department of Public Works spokeswoman, said the crews have cameras in their vehicles that can scan license plates and identify those with unpaid tickets.

However, she said the District is not targeting out-of-state vehicles and that the responsibility is on motorists.

“It’s not a case of looking at one jurisdiction over another,” Miss Grant said. “The city wouldn’t need a parking-enforcement program if everyone parked legally. And we wouldn’t need a booting program if everyone satisfied their parking tickets.”

Crews look for vehicles with three or more unpaid parking tickets, a condition city officials call “boot eligible.”

To have a boot removed, motorists must pay $50 and the outstanding parking fines.

On most days, dozens of those motorists can be found standing in line at the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles adjudication services branch on the 300 block of C Street in Northwest.

The District also issues more tickets per parking officer, 9,000 annually, than Baltimore, where the average officer issues 8,300 tickets a year.

However, the District still lags behind Arlington, where officers issued an average of 9,200 tickets a year last year, according to city statistics. Arlington also recently began using camera devices to identify people with delinquent tickets.

The most-recent information on the value of D.C. tickets issued is $69 million in fiscal 2005. The fines ranged from $20 to $100, before late fees were assessed. The average ticket was about $62.

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