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PARKING VIOLATORS FACE TOUGHER ENFORCEMENT

City parking-enforcement officers are stepping up their efforts to make sure motorists don't overstay their welcome in downtown parking spaces.

"We're not out to cause anybody any grief with parking. We're trying to encourage voluntary compliance with parking regulations," Police Cpl. Dan Stowe said. The city administration asked police to scour downtown streets three times a day for violators.The city also purchased some new tools to help officers enforce the law: hand-held computers and parking enforcement vehicles.

Parking cadets carry computers to track vehicles and write tickets. They enter vehicle data into the computer that can then be printed out in the form of a citation. Stowe downloads that information into an office computer. The city bought four units for $18,000.

Stowe said the new system is more accurate and less time-consuming. Previously, he had to enter each officer's handwritten ticket into the computer. He was usually several months behind. Now the turnaround time doesn't exceed six hours. The system also allows police to better track delinquent fines.

Beginning next month, parking-enforcement cadets will cruise city streets in refurbished postal trucks with amber light bars on top. The Police Department bought five vehicles from the U.S. Postal Service for $4,000. Cadets now drive old police cars.

"The visibility is much better in these things," Stowe said. People will know when parking officers are on patrol.

Stowe is rewriting the city's tow policy. Vehicles with six unpaid tickets will be hauled away, he said.

The city also is evaluating what constitutes a parking violation.

Officers now may issue tickets to vehicles parked overtime along the same curb or median in a single block. For instance, a car moved from one space to another on the south side of Center Street between 100 East and University Avenue could be ticketed.

Stowe said because that policy is a source of controversy, the city is considering numbering each parking space. Only those sitting in the same stall for more than the allotted time would receive tickets, he said.