Parking enforcement more intricate than most may believe

You feel tremendous relief upon dismissal from a long, tiresome class. Feeling the pure bliss of stepping out into fresh air, you make your way to the parking lot.

As your vehicle comes into your field of vision, you put some extra pep in your step as you anticipate the little free time available to you when you get home. Then, you notice the tiny envelope placed under the windshield wiper.

Squinted eyes and a gaping mouth become you as you hope to make out some 18-and-over club or church propaganda, but, as you suspected, you’ve been hit with a parking violation.

According to the Los Rios Police Department, 3,853 parking citations were written at American River College during the Fall 2013 semester. These citations – which include parking without a valid permit, in driving lanes, in multiple spaces and with fraudulent permits – tallied a total of  $131,272. Only $74,225 has been paid as of this writing.

Primarily, campus patrol officers handle parking enforcement at ARC. They wear light blue shirts instead of the dark-colored uniforms to be distinguished from sworn officers. Campus patrol officers are the “primary units that issue the parking citations,” according to Sgt. Mike Olson.

There are about 25 total officers, including sworn officers and campus patrol staff, responsible for patrolling the lots and parking garage. Between one and four of them are on patrol at any particular time.

Contrary to many students’ beliefs, these officers handle a lot more than parking citations.

Patrol officers also assist with jump-starts, changing of spare tires and crimes committed in the parking lots.

“(Writing parking tickets is) just one of their duties…they also do vehicle patrol, foot patrol, we’ll be including them in bicycle patrol soon, they handle some of our reports,” said Olson.

Olson believes the idea that officers place special attention on writing citations is “a misconception” and states that other, more important issues often take precedent over said citations.

“We look at all the duties that we need to perform that day, at that time and what my staffing level is,” said Olson. “Is it a high priority? No. Parking enforcement overall is a priority, but emergencies and large gatherings are of a greater priority.”

Once citations are issued, the collection of fees is handled by a citation-processing center for the police department. This company, which is contracted by the Los Rios Community College District, has its own appeal process, independent of Los Rios.

“It says right on the back of your citations, how to file a first-level appeal and then, if approved by the company, the ticket (is) dismissed,” said Olson. “If not, then you can file a second-level appeal and see someone in person, usually here at American River College.”

Olson began his tenure with the Los Rios Police department prior to this arrangement with the third party, and believes it allows the department to be more efficient.

“When I first started, it was our duty to handle the first-level appeals and it was very time consuming,” said Olson. “It detracted greatly from everything else we could focus on. Having that done by an independent party eliminates all accusations of ‘well, you’re just saying ‘no’ because you want my money.’ And it frees the Sergeants especially up for other critical duties.”

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