City Council Approves Tire Boot Parking Enforcement System

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In hopes of more effectively collecting overdue parking fines and reducing costs associated with towing, the city of Berkeley is implementing a new parking enforcement system that would lock cars in their place.

The Berkeley Police Department - which currently employs 26 parking enforcement officers who impound vehicles with at least five outstanding parking citations - is negotiating a contract with PayLock Inc. to implement the vehicle immobilizer program, which is estimated to cost citation violators $140, about $160 less than the cost of towing and releasing a car.

The city's current tow and release program requires citation violators, or scofflaws, to pay outstanding citations in addition to a $75 release fee to obtain their vehicle at one of four lots in the city. The new boot and release program will equip officers with "smart boots" to place on vehicle tires, requiring scofflaws to call PayLock directly to electronically pay overdue fees and unlock the boot.

The Berkeley City Council unanimously passed a resolution at its meeting Tuesday night to implement the program, in addition to a resolution to extend the city's contract with the four towing companies and designate that Avenue Towing store the boots. The city will continue working with all four companies, according to the resolution.

"(The new system was) designed to be less intrusive and cause less economic pain and suffering to people who would have gotten their car towed," said Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who added that he supports the resolution.

In an eight-hour assessment trial conducted earlier this year on "regular routes," enforcement officers identified 54 scofflaws' vehicles which, collectively, account for an estimated $53,000 in fees due to the city.

The program will have no fiscal impact on the city's budget due to the fact that violators will pay fines directly to PayLock. The boots will also be supplied to the city at no cost.

According to Lynne Ohlson, public safety business manager for the police department, the new system will not necessarily save the city money, but it will serve as a more efficient, paperless way to collect fees.

"(The new system) is free of any problems to our knowledge," Ohlson said.

However, Councilmember Darryl Moore said that although he supports the resolution, he is concerned that if vehicles are left unclaimed, there will be reduced parking available in condensed areas.

"It would be better to just tow (the vehicle) because if it's parked there illegally in the first place, something should be done about it," said UC Berkeley sophomore Anthony Salgado. "No one else can use that spot."

Similar immobilization programs are being implemented in 16 other cities across the state, including Oakland, according to Ohlson.


Contact Yousur Alhlou and Courtney Moulds at [email protected]

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