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Citizen cops issue $382,000 in tickets

Most of the citations, worth $356,556, went to motorists who parked in zones reserved for handicapped drivers.

By JON WILSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 20, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- The city's civilian patrols have written nearly $382,000 worth of tickets during the past year, most of them for pulling into zones reserved for handicapped drivers.

According to police department figures, the patrol saved the city another $162,970 in wages that would have been paid had city employees been the ones out ticketing.

But a road patrol and a crew of about 10 handicapped-parking specialists are all volunteers who work for free.

The handicapped-parking specialists completed a 40-hour police department course in April and immediately hit the streets, targeting drivers who park without authorization in the blue-bordered slots in front of most businesses.

Disabled drivers get blue placards, keyed to the owners' driver license numbers, to hang from their rearview mirrors. Without that authorization, drivers can be ticketed.

The volunteers found plenty of work.

They wrote 1,382 citations for disabled parking violations, which, at $258 per ticket, generated $356,556.

The disabled-parking specialists and the road patrol also wrote:

298 tickets for illegal parking, such as in a loading zone ($34 each totaling $10,132.)

291 for parking in a fire lane ($30 each totaling $8,730.)

189 for street storage, which is leaving a vehicle unattended for days at a time ($34 each totaling $6,426.)

The totals suggest zealous enforcement, "although it's not our goal to generate revenue," said police spokesman Rick Stelljes.

"If (volunteers) can't write any, they've had a successful day, because our goal is compliance."

Stelljes said the campaign appears to be educating drivers to steer clear of handicapped zones. The number of citations has decreased in recent months, he said.

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