Scofflaw parkers clutter police headquarters

November 13, 2007

THE PROBLEM -- Cars parked illegally along Fayette Street in front of city police headquarters.

THE BACKSTORY -- Even the city's most prolific and daring scofflaws would probably think twice about parking in a clearly marked no-parking zone in front of a police station. Try doing it in front of the Bishop L. Robinson Sr. Police Administration Building at 601 E. Fayette St.

Most people would expect a ticket. Or worse.

But one recent day, not just one person but several people decided that it was OK to park in front of the police headquarters. They ignored the "no stopping" signs. They left their cars straddling three crosswalks, blocking access to the sidewalk. A few parked so close to President Street that their cars blocked half a travel lane.

Many, it turns out, were personal cars belonging to police officers. They identified themselves by putting badges - and in one case a ticket book - on their dashboards.

Parking enforcement officers write parking tickets and work for the city's Department of Transportation. But spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes urged Watchdog to check with police "as to what their regulation is for parking at that location." She also noted that police, as well as parking officers, are also "responsible for enforcement."

Parking for police officers and others visiting or working out of police headquarters and the nearby Central District station on East Baltimore Street has always been a problem. Other districts have parking lots, but many officers assigned downtown are on their own once they trade their personal vehicles for squad cars.

Sterling Clifford, the city Police Department's chief spokesman, said officers have been warned about how they park - not only their personal vehicles, but their marked vehicles as well.

"Obviously, we encourage police officers and civilians who have business at police headquarters to obey all parking regulations," Clifford said. Earlier, he said, "People just park there. Periodically, parking officers come and hand out huge tickets, and people don't park there the next day."

WHO CAN FIX THIS -- Clifford said the Police Department doesn't monitor Fayette Street for parking violations, but residents can call the 311 nonemergency line to register a complaint. The chief of the Department of Transportation's safety division, which oversees parking control agents, is Kenneth Strong, 410-396-6802.

UPDATE

The State Highway Administration has put up a "left turn only" sign on Ingleside Avenue for motorists turning onto Security Boulevard in Baltimore County, according to spokesman David Buck. A reader had complained that the lack of a sign made the intersection dangerous.

The SHA had decided a sign was unnecessary, but officials changed their minds after an examination of the intersection prompted by an inquiry from Watchdog. The agency concluded that the left through-lane of Ingleside abruptly changed into a left-turn-only lane without giving motorists enough warning.

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