Technical Ticketing: Confusion Over Holiday Parking and Trash Day

Posted on Thursday, January 5 2012 by Heather Brandon

No parking sign on Ashley Street. Photo H Mira

When we have a holiday weekend in Hartford, trash day is moved back one day for everyone. But not for the police officers who patrol the streets looking for opportunities to ticket residents who may believe they have a holiday reprieve.

Many city streets are marked with signs warning residents not to park on a given side of the street on a particular trash day—and that day of the week is noted. When trash day is moved back a day, like it is this week, police still ticket and even attempt to tow cars even though there is no trash collection. Why? Because street sweeping, which ordinarily occurs on the same day as trash collection, is not delayed.

Helder Mira, a resident of Asylum Hill, happened to be out walking this morning when he encountered a tow truck preparing to tow an illegally parked car on Huntington Street. “The city sent out an email announcing that all trash and recycling collection was pushed back,” Mira said in an email. “Residents figured that meant everything was pushed back a day and hence, no parking ban.”

Mira decided to move his car from the street when he got home, only to come back outside to find an officer driving up behind his parked car. Mira indicated he was moving the car, only to observe the officer move on to ticket a car down the block:

I moved my car and saw the officer move to my neighbor’s down the block, ticket the car, and then move away. A different tow truck company came by and stopped a few houses down. It waited ten minutes and then went to tow the car. The cop was parked a few houses away and when he saw the owners come out, he drove over and they spoke to each other.

The next time I saw a tow truck, I was already so frustrated I flipped it off. He stopped and backed up, so I asked him who told him to be out there. This was the third different towing company. He just said the police said to come out and tow.

I then called the mayor’s office directly and got a woman who took my information and complaint. She called back after ten minutes. She said that because the street sweeper wasn’t functioning and going out, that they would waive the tickets. I asked her why it wasn’t indicated that while trash wasn’t being picked up, street sweeping was still occurring. She had no answer.

Parking ticket on a non trash day. Photo L Karmazinas

Officers are apparently out and about prepared to ticket and tow based on the trash day signage, and the ostensible expectation of street sweeping, which may or may not happen. Towing companies are invited to come on out and have a field day, even though there is no trash collection. Instead, there are a lot of people who think there is no violation for street parking on a day like this.

Lucas Karmazinas, a West End resident, watched out his window on West Boulevard as police approached and ticketed his car on December 28—what ordinarily would have been trash day for him, but it was a holiday week, and collection was pushed back by a day.

Wondering if he should bother to protest the ticket, he learned that there is a $15 fee for losing, on top of the $45 fine, and that others who have attempted to protest such ticketing in court have lost because of the technical fact that signage tells us not to park on trash day.

Street sweeping doesn’t change days even if trash collection is pushed back—thus “justifying” this kind of ticketing.

The letter of the law is being followed strictly, but on inconsistent streets. Some residents park on the street on trash collection day and get no ticket. On my street, trash collectors encounter parked cars and just lean on the horn until someone moves. As far as I have observed, towing violators does not happen.

Because signage shows what is expected, there is no legal recourse for someone frustrated by a ticket on a day when trash is not being collected.

It’s not so outrageous to come to the conclusion that police on ticket patrol, on a delayed trash pickup day, might only be ticketing and towing because they know more people will mistakenly assume it’s safe to park based on the holiday. If that is not what the police are really up to, then they owe it to the public to come up with a better system. This approach, during a holiday week, certainly doesn’t help the trash collectors at all, and there is no violation for parking on the street when they’re actually doing the work.

How about some common sense on a holiday week? I suggest not bothering to ticket at all when trash collection is delayed. Is the revenue stream from these violations that robust? Can the city not come up with some alternative approaches to holiday trash-day ticketing practices that wouldn’t be so harsh for residents? How about setting some clear rules so we can all play by them?

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