In the first training in collaboration with the Austin Police and Austin Transportation Departments, 15 Austin citizens were trained Saturday to issue tickets to those improperly parked in accessible parking spaces.
At the four-hour training, volunteers learned to identify improperly parked cars and to issue tickets, which are $513 each and attended a mock ticket writing practice in a parking garage. After passing a background check, the volunteers must log 12 hours of work a year to stay in the program.
“We’re hoping to have a training class once a month,” parking enterprise manager Jason Redfern said. “We hope to get many passionate people out there that want to help and train people up and get them out on the streets and start making a big dent in accessible parking violations.”
APD and other organizations have hosted this training for over two decades, but APD has not had the time and resources to support the program actively, Redfern said.
Now, the transportation department will take the lead in revitalizing the training and hopes to have 100 volunteers by the end of the year, Redfern said.
“We want to highlight what those issues are using technology and mapping to understand, maybe there are hotspots that we need to get,” Redfern said. “(We want) people that own businesses to get involved, and maybe they’ll have their own security personnel that will help us in that program.”
The transportation department has also added safety measures for the new volunteers, including reflective safety vests and a citation handbook on basic tips, he said.
Safety is the biggest concern for these volunteers, Redfern said. Many times volunteers can be yelled or cursed at for issuing tickets, said Cliff Turner, an accessible parking volunteer of 10 years. Turner said he had been assaulted when someone jerked his citation book from his neck, leaving a burn.
“Don’t try to dispute the ticket with them,” lead enforcement officer Block’o Wilford said. “Write the ticket and go. If they want to dispute, they can in court.”
Accessible parking volunteer David Flores said he has issued around 2,000 tickets in his three years of volunteering. He said he has issued up to 25 tickets per day.
Volunteers can write citations for vehicles in private or public spaces, which makes them more effective than parking enforcement officers who can only issue tickets in public areas, Wilford said.
Emeline Lakrout, president of Disability Advocacy Student Coalition, uses a guide dog because she is partially blind. She said she became certified to issue tickets to those improperly parked in accessible parking spaces years ago.
“You need a lot of room, especially if you have a wheelchair accessible van, and you physically cannot access places (without parking),” marketing senior Lakrout said. “It’s discrimination in the most extreme form.”
Marina Navarrete, a trainee, said she decided to attend the training because she had trouble finding parking with her paralyzed mother in 1975, before accessible parking was widespread.
“When I was 12, my mom got sick and was paralyzed for the last three years of her life, and it was always a struggle to find parking,” Navarrete said. “Now that we have laws in place, it’s a great idea to help enforce them.”