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Cars in city may get the 'boot'

The Hagerstown City Council may give the city's police department the legal authority to "boot" or immobilize the vehicles of th

The Hagerstown City Council may give the city's police department the legal authority to "boot" or immobilize the vehicles of th

February 18, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council is scheduled to debate tonight whether to give the Hagerstown Police Department the legal authority to "boot" or immobilize the vehicles of scofflaws who have at least three unpaid parking tickets more than 30 days old.

In March 2002 the council gave its general support for the police to begin using the boots, which are devices put on a vehicle's wheel to immobilize the vehicle.

The proposed boot program is modeled after ones in Baltimore and Williamsport, Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said.

Williamsport started its booting program on July 1, 2002. Only two people have been booted so far with the town's requirement, which is less strict than the city's proposed one: Williamsport police can only boot drivers of cars with five tickets.

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Under the Hagerstown proposal, when a boot is placed on a car, a written notice also will be left explaining the situation, Smith said.

A vehicle owner has two days, from the time the vehicle is booted, to pay the outstanding citations before the vehicle would be towed and impounded to clear the parking space, Smith said.

Smith suggests the city charge a $100 booting fee to people who are booted to cover police time and expenses. The amount would be added to the amount of unpaid tickets, which also would have to be paid.

Currently, about 700 vehicles fit the requirements to be booted, Smith said.

He suggested the city have an "amnesty program" for its first month to give people with delinquent tickets a chance to pay those costs, perhaps at a discount, before they are subject to booking.

The earliest the Hagerstown program will become effective is April 25. An actual boot costs about $200 to $250 to buy.

The city currently has vehicles with many old unpaid parking tickets towed but towing is expensive and can tie up police officers for 30 minutes while they wait for the vehicle to be taken away, he said.

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