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Denver Sees Significant Increase In Parking Ticket Revenue

DENVER (CBS4) Parking spaces in Denver are a finite resource. Each year, parking enforcement agents give out hundreds of thousands of tickets to manage that resource and enforce the law. 4 On Your Side hears from dozens of people frustrated when they get a parking ticket.

Jill Williams is one of those people. She got a parking ticket when she was downtown to pay a traffic violation.

"I just paid $160 and I came out and it was like 'Oh, you can give us another $25.' It was like insult to injury," Williams told CBS4.

Williams' ticket was for improper use of the meter by taking up two spaces.

"I was like shocked because I had put money in the meter and made sure I wasn't too far away from the curb. And I thought I did everything okay," Williams said.

Gary Glasser is a trainer for Parking Enforcement. He's among the 53 people the city has giving out parking tickets. He says the laws are specific and so is his job. In a case like Williams he says he teaches officer to observe, evaluate and cite.

"If the dash is right in line with the meter pole, that'd be improper use. If you look at the dash there'd probably be four, five six feet past the meter pole," Glasser explained.

A look at parking ticket records shows that in the last five years, the number of improper use of a meter tickets went up 8-percent. CBS4 asked the Denver Department of Public Works for parking ticket information from 2001, 2006, and 2011. In 2001, Denver collected $13,238,475.04 in parking violations. In 2006, parking ticket revenue went up to $15,759,039.47. In 2011, the city collected $27,728,015.30 in parking tickets, that's a 76-percent increase in 5 years.

"The most significant part of that is that the fines for many different violations went up," said Ann Williams, spokesperson for the Denver Department of Public Works.

The city did raise fines on many of its parking violations.

--Street Sweeping: $25 - $50

--Handicapped Parking: $100 - $150

--Meter Violations: $20 - $25

"Just with the five dollar increase on that fine, that equates to a little over a million dollars," Williams explained.

Williams said that the city got better at collecting past due fines which added to the bottom line. The records show that enforcement agents gave out more tickets. In 2006, Denver gave out 580,342 tickets, that went up to 645,064 in 2011 – an increase of 11-percent.

"I feel like it's a racket," said Heather Duncan.

Heather Duncan got 12 tickets for one violation. With late fees and collection charges, she ended up owing $2240.

"I actually got four tickets I didn't even know about," Duncan said.

Duncan's tickets were for a license plate violation. The number of tickets given for license plate violations were up 16-percent from 2006 to 2011. A license plate violation is a violation of state law.

"Bound by law…if we see that we're going to cite it," Williams said.

"Over and over and over?" asked CBS4 Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks.

"There is no way our agents could have known that she had received 10 citations," Williams replied.

Digging deeper into the records, we found that the number of tickets given for parking over 18-inches from the curb went up 268-percent.

"This is all about safety," Williams said.

Glasser said it's a matter of measurements, and he trains enforcement officers to measure the tires giving drivers every benefit.

The city also gave out more tickets for parking at a meter too long. That violation went up 412-percent in 5 years.

"The whole point of this citation is we have to turn over the parking. So even if you're put money in the meter to give yourself more time, if you've already stayed the allotted time posted, you're at risk for a citation," Williams explained.

"I thought that as long as you're paying your meter you're okay," said Brooks.

"It's not about that at all anymore," Williams replied.

While many categories of tickets went up, we also found some that went down in the last five years:

Handicapped Parking down 34-percent

Alley Parking down 36-percent

Street Sweeping down 1-percent

Drivers like Duncan and Williams feel like they're being nickeled and dimed to death. But parking enforcement officers say they're just doing their jobs to enforce the laws and manage this finite resource.

The money collected from parking revenue goes into the city's general fund and helps pay for services like fire, police, trash pick-up, and libraries.
RELATED: More Reports By 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks

- Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith


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