Parking panel supports non-police enforcement

A volunteer group created to help shape policy about parking and transportations issues in downtown Charlottesville has endorsed a proposal from staff to hire a private contractor to enforce parking tickets. Charlottesville Parking Director Rick Siebert reminded the Parking Advisory Panel yesterday that there are many on-street parking spots that stop being free to the driver after the posted time limit expires. 

“I believe if we had more consistent parking enforcement that people would only stay for two hours or less in the two hour spaces,” Siebert said. 

Siebert was originally hired to implement a parking action plan that included installing parking meters that would raise revenue for the city to pay for downtown improvements, but a six month pilot in 2017 and 2018 was not completed. Siebert said the city can still collect some of those revenues through more consistent enforcement. 

“I think it’s difficult with the police being solely responsible for this function for them to focus on that as a matter of importance given the number of issues that they realistically face every single day,” Siebert said. 

Siebert said a private contractor would be solely focused on this function and could also expand enforcement elsewhere in the city, including permit parking in residential areas. The idea has the support of Kirby Hutto, the panel’s chair.

“Without consistent enforcement, people learn to take advantage and to just ignore the signs and that’s bad for downtown because then those spaces are not in rotation,” Hutto said.

However, Charlottesville Economic Development Director Chris Engel said not everyone in local government supports the idea.

“There is some reluctance on the part of the police department,” Engel said. “The concern is that what  happens when an enforcement officer gives a ticket erroneously and that needs to be appealed. The citizen is naturally going to knock on the police department’s door because they expect that’s where it came from and it creates a situation where people are going to the wrong place, complaining to the wrong person. There could be some confusion there.” 

However, the panel unanimously recommended a resolution in support of the idea. Joan Fenton is another member. 

“Personally, I think politically its a good time to present this again as people are asking to rethink how the police are, what jobs the police are needed to do and not to do,” Fenton said. 

Siebert said that if Council supports the idea, it would likely take six months from issuing a request for proposals for the switch to be made. 

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