Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Frustrations with HP Parking Enforcement


Last post I mentioned one of the hot buttons of the Salem Commission on Disabilities, sidewalk access.  Recently, Ken Bonacci, a colleague and former member of the Commission, brought up another frustrating situation for us over the years:  Handicapped parking violations at Salem Depot, and elsewhere around the city.

Ken has been very forward in dealing with the situation, more than most people would contemplate.  The MBTA police have directed him to stop:

Lenehan [Lt. Robert Lenehan, MBTA Police] said the T asked Ken Bonacci, a former Disabilities Commission officer, to stop approaching cars that are illegally parked in handicapped spaces and asking drivers to move, in part, out of concern for Bonacci's safety.

The MBTA recently received a two-page letter, apparently written by a commuter, complaining about the enforcement actions. As a result, Lenehan sent an officer to the Salem train station to speak with Bonacci.

The transit police want to make sure the well-intentioned enforcement actions of Bonacci and other volunteers working with the local commission don't result in a confrontation with an angry motorist, the T official said.

The article goes on to explain what the Commission has done:

Disability Commission members were trained several years ago by the Salem police in volunteer enforcement of handicapped parking violations, Harris said. They used to take photos of cars, write down license plate numbers and turn the information over to police, who would then issue parking tickets.

They were also given identification badges, which Bonacci said he places against the driver's window to identify himself before speaking to a motorist or asking a driver to move.

"He was doing exactly what ... the commission was trained to do," Harris said. "He just knocks on a window and politely explains that they're in a handicapped spot and they don't have a placard or plate and need to leave."

As part of the training, Salem police emphasized the need to avoid any kind of confrontations, Harris said.

The Commission has had a long history of frustration with HP parking enforcement and we have experimented with some different approaches, including the one mentioned in the article.

At one point a few years the Salem PD gave us "informational" ticket booklets which were to be forwarded to the Parking Department. Originally, the informational citations were to be a kind of green stamp; if a driver collected several, there would be points on the insurance and a real citation.

When we asked about the disposition of the tickets, we were told they would be thrown away. We gave up on that one.

The Salem PD tried volunteering us to go around with digital cameras, when the technology was newer, to monitor HP parking spaces, but there weren't enough volunteers, nor was there the money to have the PD do it.

Our latest idea, so far, isto get funds to pay a detail to monitor parking, again at key spaces like the train station and downtown. This would relieve us from the situation that Ken was in.

I would not have done what he did in that situation. I use the train station regularly; I don't drive but I can easily walk to the handicapped spaces and see who's in them. I wouldn't have confronted anyone. But Ken is a very forward person. He did this on his own initiative. That's why we respect him.

Ken was a very respected member of the Commission, and we consider him a dear friend. Ken has been my ideal as a commissioner for the 2 years I have held the position. 

With the turmoil surrounding the MBTA, we're not certain how the MBTA police will be able to enforce the spaces until the new station is built. I understand that on weekends the T police is so thinly staffed there is only one officer to serve an area from Boston to New Hampshire.

Nevertheless, we do hope to leave this to the police. We really do. But Ken did not act out of thin air, but out of the many years of frustration that drivers with disabilities have experienced.

Many of whom, by the way, will complain to us.  That’s OK, it’s our job to hear them, but as with our sidewalk issues, we are dependent on the police and the rest of the government to help us out.

No doubt, in the near future, we’ll be meeting with Chief Tucker to get some ideas on dealing with parking scofflaws without being cops ourselves.

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