Parking citations on the rise this semester: what’s the deal?

Campus Police Parking Service keep an eye out for students and visitors that violate the parking laws. (Oliver Yu/Lariat Staff)

Sean Martinez

The campus police are a common sight at Saddleback College, their black cruisers constantly on the prowl for troublemakers. If you’ve ever received a parking ticket then you know that the campus police often lurk unseen until a car without a proper permit is parked, then swoop in to charge the offender with a fine. But lately, students may have noticed that the police have been more vigilant than is usual for this time of year. In fact, parking citations are up at Saddleback College, with 5,187 citations issued in Spring semester 2009. This is compared to 8,837 issued in 2008. With almost an entire semester left, the money from these fines could far exceed last year’s total.

The numbers are considerable when totaled up, with $200,000 being brought in during the 2008-2009 school year. Large sums like these are common among California colleges, with some larger schools reaching even higher numbers. California State University Fullerton’s newspaper the Daily Titan recently reported that “last year, approximately $1.2 million was collected in parking violation penalties.” The money from these fines has allowed some campuses to purchase more expensive equipment. Fullerton’s police department, for example, has recently purchased a new vehicle mounted infrared camera system called the Mobile Plate Hunter-900 which targets repeat offenders. The units, which cost around $28,000 each are described by the Daily Titan as “much more efficient and far less time-consuming.”

Some of the money generated at Saddleback College from the fines goes directly into improving the campus; the rest goes back to the school.

“Currently, the daily pass machines are being upgraded using money from parking tickets,” said Saddleback Officer Dan Lincoln. “They’ll be able to accept credit cards as well as cash. So, it helps anybody who’s looking to get daily passes. Some of the money also goes to maintaining the parking lots and equipment we use every day.”

Parking fines can range from anywhere from $25 to $250, the number being dependent on the nature of the transgression. The most expensive fine, $250, is reserved for those who park in the handicap lots without displaying a handicapped permit. On the other end of the spectrum, one of the most common and cheapest fines are for not properly displaying a parking permit, which adds up to cost of $30. Another common violation is parking in no-parking zones, which results in a $35 fine.

“It’s not that hard to avoid parking tickets if you know what to do,” Lincoln said. “Any daily parking permit purchased here is good for any student lot on campus. I want students to know that.”

Some of the largest amounts of fines are reaped each year at the beginning of the semester, when large amounts of new students unfamiliar with the campus and its rules park everywhere. Most of them are under the impression that there is a “grace period” for the first two weeks of school, during which the campus police exhibit lenience towards violators. In fact, according to the College’s website, no such period exists.

“Fortunately, there’s no penalty for repeat offenders,” Lincoln said. “It’s cumulative, though, so it adds up quick.”

Permits can be purchased online or on campus, with daily passes available on several sites on campus. If you are cited, you have 21 days to either pay the fine to the Campus Police, or contest the citation in court. Additional fines will be incurred if the violator fails to act.

Officer Hsu will cite you for illegal parking. (Oliver Yu/Lariat Staff)

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