Parking-ticket scofflaws will get the boot sooner if the Westminster Common Council approves a change in a city ordinance next month.
The council took a first vote last week to reduce from three to two the number of unpaid tickets a motorist could have before city police could immobilize a vehicle with the mechanical boot.
More is involved than the $12,000-plus in outstanding fines owed by violators, city officials said. It's only partly the money.
"Right now, there are 39 people with three outstanding [tickets] totaling $5,040," said Damian L. Halstad, chairman of the city's public safety committee. "But there are 96 with two [tickets] totaling $7,130.
"We would certainly like to get the $12,000, but the Police Department also has better things to do than chase overdue fines."
The biggest problem, he said, is "the administrative hassle of constantly having to notify the offenders that they have these outstanding tickets."
The council's first vote was unanimous, and the ordinance change is expected to pass on a second vote at its July 14 meeting.
Last week, Westminster Police Chief Sam Leppo outlined the steps the department goes through to collect what usually begins as a $5 ticket -- the vast majority of which are issued for failing to feed a parking meter.
"Booting is not something we do as soon as the citation is up," Leppo said. Reminder letters begin within days and continue until the offender has received nine warnings from the Police Department.
The process takes administrative time: to keep the citation on file, to prepare and mail letters, and to notify the Motor Vehicle Administration.
A motorist has seven days to contest the fine after receiving the parking ticket, he said. If no objection is filed, the first reminder goes out three days later. A second follows 10 days after that, warning that the fine will double to $10, plus a $10 administration fee. A third reminder follows 30 days after the ticket's date of issue, and so on.
Leppo told the council: "It's not worth the $5. We're spending money to collect money."
The process takes about four months before the boot can be used, Leppo said.
"That seems more than sufficient notice," said Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan.
"We have a lot of people who carry two citations all the time. Or they'll come in and pay just the first or second so we're not in a position to boot," Leppo said. "We have to notify the Motor Vehicle Administration, have punch cards made up. We go to a computer company in order to flag these individuals."
Some people seem to be chronic offenders, he said. Figures weren't available for the number of people with one ticket, but Leppo said about 500 vehicles had been flagged through the MVA as of January 1997.
"That's a lot: 500 to process and maintain," he said.
Only after completing the warning cycles on three tickets can police immobilize the vehicle. It costs $50 to get the boot off the vehicle, whose owner receives a regular and a certified letter, Leppo said.
The ordinance probably would begin to be enforced in August, Halstad said. "But I would not look for a wave of booting."
The department has used the boot on 40 to 50 vehicles in the five or six years it has been in use, Leppo said.
Last year, the city offered an amnesty -- giving violators a chance to settle up for the original $5 fine -- but the response was poor.
"I don't understand it," he said. "If I owed $200 and had a chance to let it go for $20, just to clear them out "
With MVA registration every two years, he said violators have longer to procrastinate before they must go to the MVA to pay or lose their tags.
Even the extra trip to the MVA doesn't deter them, Halstad said. "It's amazing to me that for a $5 citation, people would go through this."
Pub Date: 6/16/97