Permit parking may increase tickets


Permit parking may increase tickets

By Michael Urbanec

DeKALB — Students and members of the DeKalb community could experience an uptick in parking tickets issued by the DeKalb Police Department in the coming months.

The DeKalb Police Department is in the process of rolling out a plan referred to as the Safe Streets Initiative. Police officials hope to curb crime in certain neighborhoods in the northwest corridor by limiting public street parking in areas with higher incidences of crime. Parking violations will be enforced by towing.

The first phase went into effect Dec. 13 and involved transferring much of the parking near Russell Road and Crane Drive to residential parking only. The parking plan relies heavily on residential permit parking that costs $25 a year.

“One of the big factors is a lot of the people that are committing crime in the northwest area of town are coming from out of town,” said Steve Lekkas, patrol division commander of the DeKalb Police Department. “So, if we limit the parking they won’t just be able to leave their cars in those spots. They can be immediately towed.”

Lekkas said he expects the changes to also help patrolling police officers by creating better lines of sight. He said if a no-parking zone has a vehicle with occupants, officers can approach the group to ensure they aren’t doing anything suspicious.

The second phase of the Safe Street Initiative passed in City Council during its April 9 meeting. This phase will limit the available public parking on Ridge Road and Normal Road near the nursing school.

Christine Wang, Student Association Senate speaker, said during a Sunday SA meeting, she thinks changes to parking will have an opposite effect on crime.

“If students are going to be over by Spiros [Court] and Hillcrest [Drive] and have too much to drink but know their cars are going to get towed, well, we know how students are,” Wang said. “It only takes one drunk driver to ruin a life.”

Lekkas said his department hasn’t had a dedicated parking officer for the past six months, but a new community service officer has been hired to track parking offenses.

“There was a little bit of a gap in between when [the former community service officer] stopped working and when the new CSO was hired,” Lekkas said. “Since we got the new CSO, we’re back where we used to be.”

The DeKalb Police Department issued 5,527 parking tickets in 2016, according to the DeKalb Police Department 2016 Annual Report.

Officers issued 5,049 tickets in 2017, but the month of December saw 697 tickets written, a 130-ticket jump from the month of November, according to data provided by the DeKalb Police Department. Lekkas said the jump could be attributed to the recent hire of a full-time community service officer.

The only other months with a difference of this magnitude were May, Juneand July 2017, when a majority of students who live on campus are back in their hometowns.

The number of parking tickets written has gone down every year since 2014 when 7,075 were written; a gap slightly more than 2,000 tickets exists between 2014 and 2017.

“It’s about safety,” Wang said. “It’s us saying, ‘we don’t want to be staying out later and walking through areas that already are heavy with crime.’”