The Hollister Police Department will train members of its Volunteers in Policing (VIP) team to periodically check that vehicles parked in handicapped spaces have the permission to do so.
“I think it will help us augment our parking efforts not only downtown but throughout the entire city,” said David Westrick, the interim police chief. “I think it’s an issue where folks aren’t being in compliance because they think they’ll park really close” and be in and out of a store. “The people who have a need for those parking spots are then not able to utilize them. We’ve gotten several complaints about that.”
For the special enforcement unit, the police department will use a truck that was not being used by the city’s engineering department. It will be marked as being a community services vehicle and the volunteers will wear distinct uniforms and badges that identify them.
Volunteers will be trained on how to recognize violations, write citations and answer general questions that they might get from the public.
“We make sure they know the key points for educating the public so they are a resource to the community,” Westrick said. “They need to know where the fire department and the hospital are, because a lot of times when people are in official vehicles, they get asked questions.”
It is expected that two volunteers will be trained as the program gets going, and then will conduct enforcement “at least weekly,” Westrick said.
“We never make it a set schedule with parking enforcement,” he said, “because you want to make sure there’s compliance.”
Asked how big a problem illegal parking in disabled spaces is in Hollister, Westrick said “I don’t have a scope of it, though I get random complaints both by email and phone calls. I get enough of them to think it is a problem.”
In his report to the City Council, he said that because of reduced staffing, “many of these complaints are not addressed in a timely manner and continue to inconvenience those persons that utilize disabled person parking spaces.”
The fine for illegally parking in a spot reserved for disabled drivers exceeds $300.
“The public needs to be educated on that,” Westrick said. “We have to help those folks that need help. They need those spots.”
Parking enforcement, in general, has been spotty over the last few years – particularly downtown. It resumed in 2009 after a six-year hiatus and then was put on hold in August 2010 when the second of two temporary parking attendants fulfilled their commitments.
Enforcement resumed in February 2011 but was again suspended in March when a community services officer left for another job.
“We’re in the final stages of hiring the next parking enforcement person, so they should be available in the next couple of weeks and (enforcement) will be up and running again,” Westrick said.