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Originally published Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 8:10 PM

Seattle parking-ticket 'boot' patrol now on the prowl

As of Tuesday, if you have four or more Seattle parking tickets that are overdue — at least 45 days after receiving the fourth ticket — a 16-pound yellow metal boot could be locked onto one of your vehicle's wheels. To remove it, you'll pay $145 plus the parking tickets, court penalties and collection-related fees.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Avoiding the boot

To pay your overdue tickets

To encourage people to pay their parking tickets and avoid getting booted, the city is waiving collection fees and accrued interest on overdue parking tickets until July 15.

For more information: www.seattle.gov/courts/

ticket/ticketinformation.htm

Boot drop-off locations

Southeast Neighborhood Service Center: 3815 South Othello St., Suite 105; open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

University Neighborhood Service Center: 4534 University Way N.E.; open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

ABC Towing: 710 South Dakota St.; open 24 hours a day.

Lincoln Towing: 12220 Aurora Ave. N.; open 24 hours a day.

Lincoln Towing: 3919 Pasadena Place N.E.; open 24 hours a day.

Source: city of Seattle

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Until now, Seattle police would see cars with overdue, unpaid parking tickets and have to pass them by because the cars were legally parked.

Not anymore.

As of Tuesday, if you have four or more Seattle parking tickets that are overdue — at least 45 days after receiving the fourth ticket — a 16-pound yellow metal boot could be locked onto one of your vehicle's wheels. To remove it, you'll pay $145 plus the parking tickets, court penalties and collection-related fees.

Parking-enforcement officers began applying boots Tuesday as part of a new strategy for collecting fees for violations. A city law allowing officers to apply the boot to scofflaws went into effect July 1.

The city estimates $26 million is owed in a backlog of scofflaw citations, and booting will recoup an estimated $3 million in the next two years.

If officers encounter a driver as he or she is returning to the car, they will give a warning instead of the boot, said Vincent Babcock, one of the boot-team enforcement officers.

"We want to give them the opportunity to understand that now's the time to pay their citations," he said, after clamping a boot on a bronze Kia Optima on 13th Avenue and East Howell Street on Capitol Hill. The car had seven unpaid parking tickets.

Two parking-enforcement vehicles are now each armed with three infrared cameras that scan license plates and cross reference plate numbers with law-enforcement and court databases for stolen vehicles and scofflaws. The cameras can read plates as the parking-enforcement cars are driving, even up to 70 mph, said George Murray, supervisor of the police department's Parking Enforcement Section. Eight officers have been trained to be members of the boot team.

The boot teams will roam city streets Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Edwards said. Police opted not to use boot teams on weekends to save on overtime pay, he added.

To remove a boot, violators call New Jersey-based PayLock on its 24-hour hotline and pay the ticket costs, penalties and fees by credit card or other means. The company then provides a code to unlock the device.

After that, the driver has two calendar days to return the boot to one of five drop-off locations, or a daily late fee of $25 may be added to the bill. Failure to return the boot, or damaging the boot may cost the driver a $500 replacement fee. Originally, the city planned to provide three boot-return locations, none of which would have been open past normal business hours. The city has since added two more drop-off spots and made three of the five open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If a boot is not removed from a car within 48 hours, the car can be towed.

About 20,000 vehicles were listed as scofflaws as of July 2, according to the Seattle Municipal Court.

To encourage people to pay their parking tickets and avoid getting booted, the city is waiving collection fees and accrued interest on overdue parking tickets until July 15.

There's reason to believe a flurry of people paid off their tickets in response to the temporary waiver, which began May 1, said Nick Zajchowski, policy analyst for the Seattle Municipal Court.

"We have seen the lines increase at our cashier windows quite a bit in the last few weeks," he said.

People who get on a payment plan will be taken off the scofflaw list.

In anticipation of the law change, officers also distributed about 2,000 warning notices to scofflaws since the end of May, Edwards said.

J.B. Wogan: 206-464-2206 or jwogan@seattletimes.com

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