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Police seek new parking-ticket system

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

If approved by the Clayton County Board of Commissioners today, county police will have a greater ability to cite motorists who park illegally.

Under current ordinances, officers must personally issue a court summons to a parking violator, much like for moving violations, said Maj. Ken Green, legal advisor to the Clayton County Police Department.

Green said for years, police officers have been required to play a "waiting game" with parking violators.

"Since we have so few police officers on the street, we just can't afford to wait, so we just haven't been writing as many tickets," he said.

The proposed parking-ticket system, if implemented, would be identical to the system used by the City of Atlanta, in which a police officer who finds a car illegally parked will put a citation on the car windshield that doubles as an envelope, Green said. The offender would be made aware of the cost of the violation, and then have a certain amount of time to mail in their payment to the appropriate county court.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners will meet today at 7 p.m., for its regular business meeting at the Clayton County Administration Building on Smith Street in Jonesboro, and the proposed system for issuing parking citations will be on the agenda for discussion.

"This [the new ordinance] allows Clayton County Police officers to actually be allowed to give a parking ticket," Green said. "Right now, we have to have the owner of the vehicle come out and accept the ticket. [The police officer] has to catch the driver and give him a summons to court. We want to be able to respond to the community's needs without tying police officers up ... it's a good tool in the officer's belt."

Commissioners must set the amounts parking violators will pay, Green said.

In addition to giving officers the authority to issue parking tickets without the motorist present, other proposed code changes commissioners are expected to weigh today include increasing the no-parking zone in front of fire hydrants from 10 to 15 feet, and formalizing the process by which law enforcement imposes penalties on those who illegally park in fire lanes.

"Before, [if a person was parked in a fire lane], all we had was the ability to impound the car, but it wasn't a violation of the ordinance," Green said.

Under a proposed ordinance amendment, the fire chief would also have the ability to designate certain areas of commercial property as a fire lane, and property owners would be required to mark the area as such. "If the person doesn't comply, it is a civil violation and [law enforcement officials] can take you to magistrate court," Green said.

Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said the proposed changes to the parking codes would give officers greater ability to address quality-of-life issues.

"We want to enforce all of the state law, and parking laws are a part of that," Turner said. "I get numerous calls about citizens parked illegally in subdivisions and in strip malls, particularly in handicapped parking, which is a pet peeve of mine. Before, we had to cite the owner. This gives us the latitude to cite the vehicle. They can leave a parking ticket on a car and get back to service that much quicker."