SEMO ready to give parking offenders the 'boot'

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University plans to give chronic parking offenders the "boot" this academic year even though the school saw a decline in parking violations.

The board of regents last month agreed to the administration's plan to use a vehicle boot, a device that is attached to a tire to prevent it from moving.

The tool will be used only in cases involving repeated parking offenders, said Beth Glaus, manager of parking and transit at Southeast.

Those who have the boot attached to their car will have to pay a $50 fine for a first offense and a $100 fine for second and subsequent offenses.

School officials said it's an alternative to having a vehicle towed and will force the parking offender to get the parking problem resolved.

Other colleges use such a device to combat parking scofflaws. "It is a pretty common practice," Glaus said.

A motorist will get the boot if he or she gets 11 or more tickets in an academic year, she said.

But the university will notify students of their ticket problems every time they accumulate five parking tickets. Glaus said the goal is to get the tickets paid so parking staff doesn't have to use the vehicle boot.

Southeast issued 38,232 parking tickets in fiscal year 2003, which ended a year ago June, school officials said. That was 15,653 fewer tickets than in fiscal 2002, officials said.

Increased finesSchool officials credit increased parking fines and added campus parking spaces for the change. In all, Southeast has increased parking spaces by 12 percent over the past three years, officials said.

The regents in April 2002 voted to double fines for many parking violations and increase others even more.

Students who park on campus without a permit now pay $20 for a first offense. Previously, the school levied a $10 fine. Three years ago, a motorist faced a $5 fine for parking in a yellow zone. Today, the fine is $20.

Some students said the higher fines have forced students to be more careful about where they park and follow the parking rules.

Student Matthew Kearney, 21, a senior from Carbondale, Ill., said the increased fines have led fewer students to park illegally in preferred parking spaces close to campus buildings.

Kearney said parking fines used to be so low that few students worried about getting a ticket, particularly since many of the fines ended up being paid by the students' parents.

He said added student parking near New Hall and Towers residence halls has helped. The added parking includes a parking garage that opened in January near the Towers complex.

The traffic violation statistics don't take into account the two-level parking garage because that structure didn't open until January.

Glaus said having the parking garage in use for the first time for a whole academic year, starting this fall, should improve parking even more and further reduce violations. "I am looking forward to this trend continuing," she said.

Candice Coffey, a 21-year-old senior from Chilhowee, Mo., said added parking spaces, particularly near the Towers residence halls, have helped. Some students now can park closer to the residence halls than several blocks away in the New Madrid Street parking lot.

Still, Coffey said parking is always an issue with students. "I definitely think everyone gets a little irritated when they get a ticket," she said.

Coffey said parking fines are high enough.

School officials said parking tickets aren't meant to aggravate students, but to better manage parking.

"I want my customers to be happy," Glaus said.

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