Parking Tickets Pick Students’ Pockets

Class starts in 10 minutes and you just woke up. The shuttle is out of the question: your best bet for getting to class on time is to ditch the car on a city street. You spy the “No Parking” sign, but you still stash your ride in the zone because you’re rushed and the cops can’t be that bored, right?

Consider “bored” the latest Metro Police job description since the city-county merger. Since Mayor Jerry Abramson declared the “War on Illegal Parking” last year, U of L students receiving enough tickets to fell Bernheim Forest (or buy it).

Just last year nearly 12,000 cars were towed, netting Metro Louisville $1,260,000 in revenue thanks to the $15 to $25 fines associated with these tickets.

Having left class, our tardy student expects to see a traffic violation stuck to the windshield, but can only gawk at another car that has taken his own car’s place. The car has been stolen, but by legal thieves.

Worse still, another driver is now guilty of the same “crime” as our friend, but needn’t worry about legal recourse because the city already has what it came for.

With towing, the city has a green light to take $120 from any person parked illegally, rather than the $15 that would come with a ticket. Easy money is just too appetizing to pass up.

Where does the cash go once it leaves our pockets? According to Aaron Cole, manager of the Metro Vehicle Impoundment Lot, “The income generated for towing fees and storage charges goes directly into the general fund for Metro Louisville government.”

Now, I’m no conspiracy theorist, but as far as racketeering goes, the Nikes fit and Metro government is running with it. The real crime is profiting from what could be called, on average, the most indebted population in the state.

The all-inclusive definition of illegal parking and subsequent towing authorization clause gives the city free rein to hoard. KRS law 82.625 states, “Any local government may impound a motor vehicle parked, stopped or standing upon a street or public way – in violation of an ordinance or statute prohibiting parking.” Essentially, we are the stable income the city is banking on.

If this doesn’t disgust readers, consider the double standard in the enforcement of the law. Even recognizing that Metro Louisville has a limited capacity to tow violators, theoretically the city could tow any vehicle assessed a parking citation. Officer Gary Hoefler summarized the law, stating, “Once you get a [parking] ticket, you’re deemed for towing.”

So, with so many ticketed cars to choose from, does the tow man just pick the next sad sap with a dartboard? Or are cars only towed when they impede traffic or endanger drivers by blocking the road? Spotty enforcement, and the uncertainty that it creates, is unfair to citizens – clearly, a gray area exists that Metro government has not addressed.

Saddest of all, Metro Towing & Recovery might raid your wallet twice in one swoop. We don’t stop to consider that police officers might not treat your new Mustang or Accord with tender loving care while doing their job.

The opposite is more than likely true; with a limited fleet of wreckers, police are rushing just to get to the next tow. After all, there’s gold at the end of that rainbow. As a result, the car you drive in the morning might need a re-alignment or a paint job after you retrieve it from the impound lot.

Who’s to know if damage like this occurs during the tow process? We have no way of proving anything in a situation like this because the only witness wears a uniform. And when money’s on the line, is it any wonder that the police like it that way?