- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

Some parking-enforcement officers in the District repeatedly ticket the same vehicles at the same locations, even though “boot” crews could have immobilized, then towed, the vehicles months earlier, city records show.

City records show 302 vehicles with 26 or more tickets represent more than $1.1 million in outstanding fines. D.C. policy is that crews put an immobilization device on a wheel, or “boot” them, if three or more tickets are outstanding for more than two months.

But one officer ticketed an Oldsmobile with Virginia license plates on the same block of O Street in Southeast eight times in 10 days in 2005, though it already had thousands of dollars in unpaid fines during the past six months. The vehicle eventually accumulated 72 unpaid tickets and $7,240 in fines, city records show.

Booted vehicles eventually can get towed if the owners do not pay the tickets.

Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works, which handles much of the city’s parking enforcement, said parking-enforcement officers sometimes alert boot crews if they know a car is eligible. However, boot crews generally do not pursue parking scofflaws because they are already booting a vehicle every six minutes just by patrolling the city.

“If we were to target a particular vehicle, then that would mean we have to go and wait for the vehicle, and that involves a lot of down time,” Miss Grant said.

D.C. official say the situation should improve when ticketers get equipment that scans the license plates of parked vehicles and alerts crews when a vehicle is “boot-eligible.”

Records show plenty of “boot-eligible” vehicles that get ticketed again and again, sometimes by the same officers, until they accumulated dozens of tickets and thousands of dollars in fines.

One officer ticketed a Mazda with Maryland plates three times in three days, despite the vehicle’s having nearly two dozen unpaid tickets over six years. The Mazda would be ticketed an additional 18 times, with fines totaling more than $4,000.

And a BMW with Maryland license plates was ticketed by the same officer four times in three days on the same block of Constitution Avenue in Northwest, even though it already had more than two dozen unpaid fines going back two years.

Miss Grant said the parking-enforcement program has no quotas and that officers are not encouraged to write a high volume of tickets. She said the boot crews patrol the entire city.

Several other agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Department, also issue parking tickets across the District, she noted.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said that booting is the only way the city can get Maryland and Virginia commuters to pay their tickets. He said the states are unlikely to approve a deal in which their motorists must pay their D.C. tickets before registering vehicles, a requirement that applies to D.C. residents.

“Hope springs eternal,” Mr. Graham said.

John Haddow, who commutes from Virginia to work at a law firm on Capitol Hill, said he gets about two or three parking tickets a month but pays them.

“I want to keep parking here and do not want to get booted,” he said. “But we’re zoned commercial here, and if the city is going to take our business taxes, then why don’t they provide us a place to park? They zone it commercial, but don’t give anywhere to park. But they don’t care. They say it’s not our problem.”

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