Bangor police crack down on illegal parking

Posted Aug. 06, 2009, at 8:36 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Rogue parkers of the Queen City beware: The Bangor Police Department is coming for you.

Police Chief Ron Gastia has issued a mandate to all patrol officers that parking violations have moved up the priority list. And not just in the downtown area. Officers will be closely monitoring residential areas where motorists often park on sidewalks, on esplanades, next to fire hydrants or on the wrong side of the street entirely.

In the first night alone, officers on Wednesday issued 71 tickets, Gastia said — far more than the normal output.

“I’ve been inundated with phone calls and complaints already,” the chief said Thursday from his office. “But people need to know that this is an issue we’re going to be addressing more aggressively.”

In the past, Bangor officers have not had time to patrol parking problems without sacrificing some of their many other responsibilities. Gastia said a lack of resources is still an issue, but the city is cracking down anyway.

“There is a lot of public pressure for us to address this,” he said. “We’ll be monitoring officers closely to see how much time this is taking up, but we’re serious.”

The increased parking patrol is likely not to sit well with some members of the public who have been parking illegally for months or years without being ticketed. Gastia acknowledged that some may have done so unintentionally, but his concern is public safety not public outcry.

“There are always going to be violators,” he said. “But the more we educate the public on this, the more it might serve as a deterrent.”

Safety aside, illegal parking often deteriorates sidewalks and curbs, forcing public works crews to spend extra money unnecessarily.

Although the parking crackdown is citywide, Gastia has identified a handful of streets and neighborhoods that have been particularly problematic. They are: Garland Street near the William S. Cohen School, Otis Street, Center Street, Broadway near John Bapst Memorial High School and the area between outer Union Street and Ohio Street known as Capehart.

Broadway is expected to be especially controversial once school is back in session. The spaces along both sides of the street from State Street to Somerset Street are designated as either one-hour or two-hour maximum spaces. Gastia said a majority of those spaces are occupied by John Bapst students, who will start getting tickets.

“Students have gotten away with parking on the street for a long time,” he said, admitting that the school doesn’t offer a specified parking lot.

In addition to residential areas, Gastia said officers would be paying closer attention to handicapped-parking violators. Those violators face a fine of $200, compared to $20-$25 for other parking violations.

For those who think the city is just trying to make a little money in a bad economy, Gastia pointed out that the Police Department’s parking division habitually operates in the red.

“Is it going to generate more revenue? Yes, but that’s not why we’re doing it,” he said.

The parking crackdown is the second part of Gastia’s plan to change motorists’ habits in the city. Last year, the chief directed his officers to focus heavily on traffic violations, such as speeding.

“We think that has worked. I definitely notice people driving slower on some of our city streets,” he said.

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