By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – While aldermen consider penalty changes and the hiring of a company to manage downtown parking, Oxford police will begin strict enforcement against the most flagrant violators of current parking law.
After checking with City Judge Jay Chain, Mayor Pat Patterson authorized police to boot the vehicles of people with multiple, long-term, outstanding parking fines.
“I have authorized our number-one person, with 52 citations, to be booted,” Patterson told aldermen on Thursday. “He’s paid none.”
City ordinance has long provided for booting – adding a highly visible mechanical device that immobilizes an offending vehicle – but the measure has not been used. City officials will borrow a boot from the University of Mississippi Police Department until it decides on a management contract with Standard Parking, which will then furnish the devices.
Assistant Police Chief Joey East said for a few days more – until a booting policy is completed and windshield placards for booted vehicles are procured – officers will instead have offenders’ vehicles towed.
Tom Sharpe, a member of the Downtown Parking Commission, urged booting as soon as it’s practicable. The visual impact of towing, he said, is limited to those who happen by while the offending vehicle is being picked up.
“If they see a boot on a car, they’re going to know the city is getting serious,” he said.
Alderman Ney Williams, who experienced such enforcement in Washington, D.C., agreed.
“I know boots; I’ve been booted,” he said. “It will make you pay your fines.”
Aldermen will consider at their Aug. 7 meeting other recommendations of the Downtown Parking Commission, including hiring Standard Parking to use license plate recognition technology to enforce parking regulations.
While the commission recommends a month-long orientation and free pass on the first violation if the new enforcement is adopted, fines would be increased, and a fifth unpaid ticket would trigger vehicle immobilization.
Much of the enforcement effort is aimed at motivating downtown employees to park in off-street public lots, leaving prime storefront spaces for shoppers and diners.
Downtown Parking Commission chair Jeff Triplette said, “We’re hoping to change the mindset.”