PACE’s Pace of Ticket-Writing Questioned
At the East Lansing City Council meeting held on May 17, 2016, East Lansing Police Chief Jeff Murphy and Supervisor Eldon Evans of Parking and Code Enforcement (PACE) took questions from Council about the writing of tickets by PACE. Some members of Council suggested that PACE should be giving more warnings and fewer tickets, but when I contacted ELPD to follow-up, it appears the rate of ticket-writing is unlikely to slow.
The discussion in May began with Council member Erik Altmann saying that in the process of going door-to-door to campaign for his seat, he had heard many complaints of unfair tickets written by PACE, from at least 25 to 30 different people. However, Evans told Altmann that complaints are not out of the ordinary. He said people just don’t enjoy getting tickets and it is not surprising that they would complain.
When asked to describe the complaints of people who received tickets, Lieutenant Scott Wriggelsworth of the East Lansing Police told ELi that he thought “the basic complaint was that people felt that our PACE officers were being a little bit nitpicky just when it came to enforcement.”
He gave as an example, “Somebody would come in and they would say, ‘My bumper was only hanging over four inches over the sidewalk.’ Well, what our PACE officers do a lot is take pictures of the violations. And,” he said, “what we often found was the four inches turned into two feet, or four feet, where somebody would have to make a significant jog around the car.”
Wriggelsworth then went on to acknowledge that with the number of tickets PACE writes, some of them may be questionable. “No doubt when we issue 40,000 tickets in a year, probably some of those are—you know—maybe a tire was two or three inches in the grass, but most of them are pretty clear violations and [those are] the ones we typically write.”
Wriggelsworth notes there is no evidence that PACE is backing off on writing tickets because of civilian complaints. He told ELi, “We wrote 45,000 parking tickets in 2014. We wrote 48,000 tickets last year, and who knows how many we’ll write this year.”
PACE officers do their best to use discretion in writing tickets, according to Wriggelsworth:. “Some people have voiced some concerns to the Council about PACE [questioning] whether the tickets they’re writing are fair or legitimate or not. But we are not under edict or anything to write less parking tickets.”
Says Wriggelsworth, “The officers are still going to have discretion.” But, he said, if a meter is expired, a parker should expect a ticket: “You know there is really no way for our parking officers to know how long the meters been expired. You know, it’s harder to use discretion with a parking ticket because you’re not dealing with a person, you’re dealing with an object. So if a car is parked in such a way that it violates a city ordinance, we have no way to know why that car is parked the way it’s parked.”
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