We wouldn’t expect a protest over plans by the Elizabeth City police to put the “boot” to motorists who violate the city’s two-hour downtown parking law.
There are plenty of good reasons for the crackdown, the most obvious one being that local laws are supposed to be enforced. Because many people have been allowed to rack up hundreds of dollars in parking fines without any fear of having to pay them, however, it would follow that the parking ordinance is not being enforced.
The downtown parking ordinance was passed for a good purpose — mainly to prevent motorists from monopolizing parking spaces that should be available for shoppers and others who need them to do business in the downtown area. Merchants and other downtown businesses who depend on walk-in traffic need some assurances that customers can find adequate parking nearby. Apparently, that expectation is in jeopardy, considering that city officials report about $14,000 in unpaid parking fines that have been accruing in the last several years. At $10 a pop, that’s a lot of parking violations and parking violators — and a lot of parking spaces filled that should not have been.
We also believe that allowing the violations to go unpunished is a grave disservice to the efforts of Carethia Brown, the city’s parking enforcement officer. Brown is a regular downtown fixture who can be seen daily doing her duty accounting for vehicles and the times they are parked and frequently filing out parking tickets at the scene of a parking violation. If Ms. Brown’s efforts are not being taken seriously, perhaps she should be assigned to other duties or terminated, although we don’t think that’s the right approach.
And apparently, neither is that the appropriate reaction to city police and officials, either. Instead, police will begin stepping up enforcement by using a special device called a “boot.” That boot is attached to a wheel of vehicles that are in violation of the parking ordinance, and whose owners have multiple unpaid parking tickets. With the boot attached, the motorist will be unable to move the vehicle. Hence, the potential loss of use of their vehicle should give the owner greater incentive to (1) pay off their fines and (2) cease violating the parking ordinance.
It’s a necessary action and one that should be supported by residents, businesses and motorists.
PASQUOTANK OPEN TO DOG HUNTERS
Imagine being awakened at daybreak to the sound of howling dogs, revving truck engines and rifle shots. Not a pleasant beginning to the day, most homeowners would agree.
While the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the March 2 incident in the northern part of the county, the effect on residents there will certainly have the general public wondering if they, too, could be the victims of a similar experience. The answer, unfortunately, is yes.
The incident, as revealed by property owner Billy Stafford to county commissioners last week, was as if an assault had occurred on an unsuspecting neighborhood. Dozens of trucks filled with hunters and dogs converged on a community off U.S. Highway 158 in the early morning hours for a dog hunting field trial. The numbers of hunters was so numerous that N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Officer Michael Gunn said it created “very dangerous” conditions on the highway. Gunn said that 100 to 150 vehicles were at the scene. The N.C. Highway Patrol and the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Department were also called to the scene.
Stafford, who owns property near the field trial site, told commissioners that he was called by his daughter who lives with her husband on Stafford’s property. The couple was apparently frightened by the large commotion. Stafford said he had to warn members of the hunting group off his property, where he said they were trespassing.
Stafford said that he was never asked by anyone involved if they or their dogs could enter his property — and no one ever apologized for being there.
The reason they didn’t ask, of course, is because they don’t have to. The Pasquotank County commissioners made sure of that last month when a majority of them refused to support a proposed ordinance requiring that dog hunters have written permission to be on private property.
By opposing any restraints, the commissioners have effectively given dog hunters a free pass to congregate and practice their sport. This recent incident illustrates the painful consequences of what that means to other property owners and residents.