Is Your Parking Enforcement Program Effective? Read On
By Kaye Beechum
As cities and universities continue to grow and develop, technology continues to change and people continue to move about evolving with the times, the parking industry continues to be affected. There are issues such as additional parking lots, growth of parking meter programs, improvement of university permit parking programs and expansion of residential permit parking programs. There are also issues such as security at airports and the need to keep traffic moving efficiently.
Once procedures have been implemented to address these issues, the need for an effective enforcement program is the next step. Parking enforcement is the glue that holds this all together. Without effective enforcement the entire parking management program may not be completely successful.
It is necessary to take a thorough look at the enforcement program when analyzing the other aspects of the parking management program. The purpose of an effective enforcement program is to educate rather than punish. Citation issuance alone will not always accomplish this. There must be combined efforts of the enforcement, collections and appeal processes. The enforcement must be strict and consistent, penalties for non-payment of fines must be fair, consistent and strong. There should be consistent consequences for repeat offenders.
The following are recommendations for improving the efficiency of your parking enforcement operation:
A manual of policies and procedures is necessary for guidance and direction for the enforcement officers; at the same time there must be direction on the expected enforcement of each assigned beat/route. A manual is not just personnel issues, it is also a "how to do the job" guideline, spelling out policies of enforcement so that every officer enforces the same way. Many agencies may call this a training manual. A beat plan with maps and listings of signage, meter zones, and priorities would also be a very helpful tool. This beat plan along with the manual begins to develop a life of its own. They both must be maintained and updated on a regular basis in order to be useful tools.
Development of beats
How is the city or campus divided into enforcement beats or routes? When was this last studied? Have the demographics changed during that time frame? Someone knowledgeable about enforcement practices should take a close look at this. When was the last time a field supervisor conducted a ride-along with individual officers? When was the last time any field studies were conducted on vehicle occupancy rates, vehicle turnover and violation capture rates? These studies will give a better picture of how to redesign beats, how to assign enforcement staff and how to discover the most important times of day when coverage is needed.
Scheduling and assignment
There are many issues to be looked into when determining the shift schedules. The studies mentioned above will give insight into the enforcement needs, not only where the priorities are but also what days of the week and times of the day the needs are greatest. Officer assignments should be made accordingly. It must be determined how many officers are needed on each shift and each day of the week. When scheduling days off and vacations, these needs must be considered.
Just assigning officers to specific shifts is not the end of the process either. Do the employees report on time, do they go immediately into the field after their briefing, do they stay on their assigned beats throughout the shift? Are instructions given for coverage during breaks? If an employee must leave early or take the day off is coverage provided for the assigned beat? Often times the shifts overlap, when this is the case are there specific arrangements made for effective coverage, rather than just roaming and trying not to "poach" on someone else's area of assignment?
Development of officers
When the guidelines are in place, the beats/routes are determined and the scheduling is effective there is one more issue to be addressed. This may be the most important issue of all and it is the "care and feeding of the enforcement officer." In other words, are your officers properly trained, do they know what is expected of them, are they supervised effectively and are they happy? Many managers feel that employees do not need to be "happy," but morale is a very important component of any successful operation. Happy employees are more professional, more productive and more attentive to duty. The enforcement officer is on the front lines of the parking operation. How the enforcement officer understands his/her duties and carries them out is vital.
Once these guidelines have been followed your job is complete, right? Actually no, your job is a continuous one and attention to all of these issues will be necessary to ensure continuous success of your overall parking management program. With continuous attention to all of these issues, the entire parking management program can't help but be completely successful.
Kaye Beechum is the former director of parking enforcement for the City of Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.