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Archive for Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lawrence parking, speeding ticket totals tumble

Kevin Lam, a Kansas University freshman from Overland Park, points his mother, Yuk Mei Wong, to the parking meter that corresponds to their parking space on Monday in the 700 block of Massachusetts Street. The amount of parking tickets issued in downtown Lawrence dropped by about 14 percent in 2010.

Kevin Lam, a Kansas University freshman from Overland Park, points his mother, Yuk Mei Wong, to the parking meter that corresponds to their parking space on Monday in the 700 block of Massachusetts Street. The amount of parking tickets issued in downtown Lawrence dropped by about 14 percent in 2010.

March 8, 2011

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A parking ticket rests under a wiper blade on Massachusetts Street on Monday, March 7, 2011.

A parking ticket rests under a wiper blade on Massachusetts Street on Monday, March 7, 2011.

If you got a speeding or parking ticket in Lawrence in 2010, consider yourself unlucky.

The number of parking tickets issued at meters in Downtown Lawrence plummeted by 14 percent in 2010 — despite the city adding an hour to the amount of time motorists must pay the meter.

And the number of speeding tickets issued in Lawrence continued to be nearly 50 percent below the totals that the city was issuing just five years ago.

The reason?

“I don’t think there has been a sudden outbreak of excellent driving behavior,” City Manager David Corliss said Monday. “I think it is more related to our ability to enforce the traffic laws.”

The city’s police department was down about eight officer positions in 2010 because of retirements and staff turnover, Corliss said. That means the department’s resources have been stretched thinner, allowing less time to be devoted to monitoring for speeding violations.

The city issued 5,312 speeding tickets in 2010, up slightly from 5,237 in 2009. But the ticket totals are well below the 8,071 speeding tickets issued in 2006. Until this year’s slight increase, the number of speeding tickets issued had declined for three straight years. Corliss said the number of tickets probably will go up some as the department gets closer to full-staffing levels. Currently, the department is only two officers down.

The parking ticket numbers also are related to a staffing issue. Corliss said the city’s staff of five parking control officers was down the equivalent of one position for much of the year because of several prolonged absences or resignations on the staff. Because the size of the staff is small, the loss of one position for a major part of the year reduced the number of tickets the staff was able to write, he said.

Plus, Corliss said he wasn’t ruling out that some changes to the city’s fine system had caused people to be more cognizant of plugging the meter. The City Commission in late 2009 increased the fine for overtime parking from $2 to $3 and increased the late payment fee for parking tickets from $10 to $15.

But the city also added one hour to the time period people must pay the meters — stretching it to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. That change likely would have produced a few more tickets.

One number that didn’t go down, according to the new data, is the amount of money the city collected in Municipal Court fines and fees. Total collections at Municipal Court increased by 14 percent to $4.06 million.

Those numbers rose because city commissioners in late 2009 approved $12 per ticket increases for speeding and many traffic violations.

Other numbers from Municipal Court’s 2010 annual report include:

• In terms of nontraffic or parking offenses, theft continued to be the No. 1 offense prosecuted at Municipal Court. There were 444 theft cases, down from 454 in 2009.

• Minor in possession of alcohol cases spiked upward in 2010. The court prosecuted 392 minor in possession cases, up 46 percent from 2009 totals. But the numbers are still below 2006, 2007 and 2008 totals when more than 400 minor in possession citations were issued each year.

• Noise violations continued their steady downward trend. Tickets in that category have declined each of the last five years from 449 in 2006 to 189 in 2010.

Comments

57chevy 3 years, 9 months ago

Gee, For just a second I thought it the drop in speeding and parking meant that the LPD was actually devoting an officer or two to crimefighting instead of revenue generating. Silly me. Lock your garages and bicycles! Barny Fife rides again!

squarepusher 3 years, 9 months ago

I agree. Or maybe have cameras that actually take the picture of the vehicle running them. Too many dummy cameras on these stoplights. In Dallas they have a nice big flash that pops when you run them. I always got a chuckle from that.

weatherguy48 3 years, 9 months ago

The existing cameras on stop lights are actually infrared, if I recall correctly. I believe their purpose is to aid the sensors in detecting vehicles.

Curtis Lange 3 years, 9 months ago

Kinda hard to get a speeding ticket when people in this city go 15-20 mph under the limit on the main streets...

squarepusher 3 years, 9 months ago

Nothing like going 30 in a 45 zone on Iowa, or having people scream by 40+ in a 30 zone on Mass. They probably need to switch the signs around. lol

squarepusher 3 years, 9 months ago

I find it odd that this article conveys a message of sadness vs. optimism that the issuance of tickets for these violations are down. I would assume this would create a sense of well-being overall in Lawrence, you know...hearing that abidance is present in town. Also the openness that meters are designed to generate tickets is unnerving.

blindrabbit 3 years, 9 months ago

Maybe too few officers, but surely not too few cop cars. I routinely drive by the Judicial Building and am always amazed at the number of idle Lawrence City Police Cars. Drove by yesterday at about 5:30 p.m.; there were at least 18 white ones parked there; not including unmarked ones. . Maybe some were parked for officers in the building, but a least 13 were parked toward the south end of the parking lot, away from the building. My guess, just in a storage situation.
1. How many cop cars does the city have? 2. What is the ratio of cars to officers, is this a normal situation? 3. Are cars assigned to individual officers or cars rotated on shifts? 4. Is the City in cahoots with some dealer buying in mass quantity? 5. How many others were on patrol, at 15th Street station, at the jail, at thecity maintenance facility, and parked in enclosed parking garages?

Just wondering!

rousseau108 3 years, 9 months ago

Isn't that kind of the point? The city doesn't have enough officers to adequately staff their patrol shifts, so of course there are going to be unused vehicles. When there might only be 12 patrol officers on duty at any given time for the entire city (instead of 24-30 as probably needed), of course they're going to be too busy dealing with the increasing levels of police calls, crimes, reports, accidents, being asked to raise peoples' kids for them, etc to be able to write tickets.

monheim 3 years, 9 months ago

A couple points to make:

(1) Having extra available cars probably helps when a car has a mechanical problem.

(2) This very article mentions the loss of officer positions. Do you expect them to just immediately trash those cars or auction them off just because they lost officers? For at least one reason why this would be a bad idea, see point (1).

zzgoeb 3 years, 9 months ago

Good news!!! I am downtown several times a week, usually to shop or dine. I watch the meter closely, since Mass. street is the "no slack" zone! If your meter expires for one minute "Lovely Rita Meter Maid" is there to get you...

I don't understand this penalty system? People come to Lawrence to shop and spend dollars, so let's make sure they get a ticket if they forget the meter. Yeah, that really helps! Why doesn't the city consider removing meters from Mass street, and make it all 2 hour parking? The folks in Topeka figured this out for Kansas Ave about 20 years ago!

Come on, surely we are at least as smart as the city council in T-town right?!

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 9 months ago

I have a suggestion. Get rid of the parking meters completely. My home town did this 40 years ago and has not suffered any problems with the cops finding enough victims. They go around and mark the tires with chalk and if they go around again later and the chalk is still there, well, ticket time. A lot cheaper than buying meters, servicing them, repairing them, et, al. But after living in Lawrence for over 40 years, no one would ever accuse this berg of exercising any shred of common sense.

Food_for_Thought 3 years, 9 months ago

I find it amusing that you use the word, "Victims". Police only write tickets for law breakers.

And you're wrong on the chalking tires thing. There was a car I complained on years ago, and the officer told me first someone has to call and complain about it, then they mark it, then they check it in 48 hours. If it's still there, they ticket it and leave an orange sticker on it. Then they wait another 48 hours for the owner to move it. So actually, the 48 hour parking rule is more like a 96 hour rule...

blindrabbit 3 years, 9 months ago

rousseau108: Your reply to my earlier seems like it would be the obvious answer to the car/ officer shortage issue. However, the idle police car situation has been occurring over the past couple of years, additionally, I have spoken to Court House employees about this issue, the standard "reply" is a non-verbal rolling of the eyes. Would like a answer to my specific questions; I be way off base, but I'd like to know!!

nut_case 3 years, 9 months ago

Seems to prove the old adage - tickets are not about safety, they are about money. As long as the money is rolling in, there is no real reason to waste extra time writing tickets.

Would also be interesting to see a correlation with accident rates. I would wager there has not been a sudden surge in accident rates in spite of the fact ticket writing has decreased.

roadwarrior 3 years, 9 months ago

I had a bit of a different experience. I drove by the office with my parking ticket, it was closed (at 1pm). The kind staff at the T told me it was usually closed and gave me the phone number for the person from that office. I left a message, but a week later had not gotten a return phone call. I finally just called the city where a nice woman there listened to events, saw the error in the ticket and dismissed it. An hour later ! I got a call from the parking office. (giggle) autie, maybe I greased the road for ya.

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