TCU Daily Skiff Friday, April 23, 2004
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A ticket to raising funds
When not fighting crime, university police writing citations
If students updated their parking permits, the number of parking citations would be reduced significantly.

By Erin Baethge

Call it a bull market for traffic citations.

The university is on pace to levy more parking fines than last fiscal year — when students, faculty and staff forked over more than $370,000 for TCU citations — and has already collected $351,207 since June 1, said Cheryl Wilson, the university controller.

The university uses the funds to help support general university activities.

The TCU Police Department employs 22 licensed officers and 10 security guards who — when they’re not solving crimes or trying to prevent them — sweep the campus for parking offenders. An administrative assistant maintains a database and even compiles a “Most Wanted List” of students who have received multiple tickets since the start of the academic year.

And the only thing stopping police from writing more tickets is a lack of officers.

“We constantly have vacancies because officers leave for higher salaries at bigger departments,” said J.C. Williams, assistant chief of police.

Every nine-hour shift has at least four scheduled officers, but the department would like to have five officers on every shift, Williams said.

“More tickets are given during the 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift because there are more officers,” officer Ervey Garcia said. “The officers at night can’t write tickets because they are more concerned about security.”

As of March 31, the TCU Police Department had issued 9,682 tickets since Aug. 1.

Ben Dalton, a sophomore political science and criminal justice major, said the officers give too many tickets, which has a negative impact on the university.

“It alienates the students and makes them not like the officers as much,” said Dalton, who has received three tickets since his freshman year. “I think the fines are ridiculously high. Once I got a $100 ticket for parking in a fire lane for one minute while I went to call a friend on the outside dorm phone.”

If students updated their parking permits, which cost $75 a year, then the number of parking violations would be significantly reduced because, according to police records, the most frequent violation is not having a current parking permit.

Records show 2,881 tickets have been issued for this violation, which carries a $75 fine, from Aug. 1 to March 31, compared with 3,331 tickets issued for this violation during the same period last year.

The second-most recorded violation is parking in a space the permit doesn’t allow, with 1,499 violations, followed closely by parking in a numbered reserved space, with 1,166 violations.

DeAnn Jones, administrative assistant at the police station, keeps track of the parking citations every month. A few names begin to stand out after she enters their information many times, she said.

Many repeat offenders are placed on the “Most Wanted List,” a list of students who have received three or more tickets since the start of the academic year.

No. 1 on the list is a student with 44 tickets since August, according to Police Department records.

The Police Department refused to release the student’s name or the type of vehicle the student drives.

The next “most wanted” student has received 32 tickets since August.

The police officers do not know if a student has paid a parking fine because payment is handled by financial services, Jones said.

“Many students believe that if they pay all their parking fines and don’t have a balance, then the officers won’t write them tickets,” Jones said. “They will say, ‘But I’m really good at paying my tickets so why I am getting another one?’ ”

Garcia said he hasn’t noticed a change in the number of students who disobey parking rules and receive tickets in his 22 years at this university.

The fines, which can range from $50 to $100, have not led to a decrease in the number of parking tickets issued, Garcia said.

Edward Green, a junior finance major, said the fines are a deterrent to some students, but don’t affect others.

“It all depends on your financial situation,” said Green, who has not received any parking tickets at TCU. “You always have that percentage of repeat offenders that don’t care. I’m not sure if they have a lot of money or if they just don’t care.”

If a police officer suspects he or she is writing a ticket for a car belonging to a repeat offender, then the officer will call the police dispatcher to verify how many tickets the student has, Garcia said.

“If time permits, their car will be booted at that time,” he said.

Anyone can be towed or booted if parked illegally, but the general standard is to boot or tow students who have three or more citations in the academic year, Garcia said.

For this academic year, 681 students have three or more parking violations, according to TCU police records. Fifty-three cars have been booted, and four cars have been towed since August.

“It’s not effective,” Jones said of the booting and towing of cars. “The department has only 12 boots and doesn’t have the time to use them all the time.”

Jones said the officers wish the parking fines would be a deterrent to students to stop parking illegally.

“We don’t want to be known as a university that tows everybody off,” Jones said. “Frankly, that’s bad PR.”

Super Frog gets a huge ticket!
 
 
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