PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Parking Authority is sending a message to drivers who think they’ve outsmarted the system.
There’s a new effort to crack down on people who haven’t paid their tickets and somehow avoided the dreaded boot.
That’s the heavy metal device that gets locked on a wheel and keeps you from driving.
As CBS 3 Anchor Chris May reports this new plan could make the high-tech boot patrol even more productive.
Nothing ruins someone’s day like the dreaded boot.
“I ain’t got nothing to say to you all, get out my face,” one man’s reaction upon seeing the boot patrol in action.
Once the boot is there’s no easy way out.
You have to dig deep and pay big money to settle your overdue parking violations and any fines and penalties.
And there will be a $150 fee to get the boot removed.
Jamal Johnson and Sherry Royal are one of up to nine boot patrol teams the Philadelphia Parking Authority has on the streets.
And they took Eyewitness News for a ride.
“If it comes back a hit all this lights up red,” explained Sherry as she monitored the on-board computer.
Some crews manually enter license plate numbers into a computer in their van.
Jamal and Sherry ride with two high-tech cameras that even at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour can scan the license plates of every parked vehicle on both sides of the street.
They’re looking for ones with three or more parking tickets or one moving violation that have gone unpaid for six months.
The boot patrol moves through neighborhoods around the city and while it may take a while to get a hit once they do they move quickly.
An alert on their laptop lets them know they’ve found a scofflaw.
Once they confirm the tickets haven’t been paid Jamal puts on the boot.
Sherry does the paperwork adding a warning sticker on the driver’s side window and placing instructions on the windshield letting the owner know who to call to get the boot removed.
The entire process can take less than a minute.
Each day between 65 and 80 cars are booted around the city and that’s a fraction of the scofflaws that are out there.
“Right now on our boot book we have over 100,000,” said Jamal.
And those are just the known offenders.
Philadelphia Parking Authority Executive Director Vince Fenerty says countless others are evading detection.
“They’re gaming the system by ducking their tickets by changing their license plates,” he said.
Parking tickets have long been associated only with license plate numbers.
So some drivers who pile up too many will go for a new plate by claiming their plate was lost or stolen.
Then when the boot patrol passes by the vehicle goes undetected.
Now at the PPA’s request city council is considering a bill that would compile a person’s tickets into their own individual record.
Those tickets and violations would move with them from license plate to license plate making it impossible for them to hide.
“We’re determined to close the loophole and make sure this doesn’t happen anymore so the playing field will be level,” said Fenerty.
Being able to target more drivers would mean a lot more money for the PPA.
Right now parking enforcement means about $37 million annually for the city’s general fund and $17 million for city schools.
And with 100,000 more scofflaws in the boot book it could mean millions more.
In the meantime the boot patrol stays on the streets hoping to avoid confrontations.
“A lot of people can be irate,” said Sherry. “They can come out and literally act a fool.”
Despite the bad reactions that Sherry and Jamal may encounter every day they strive to do a very tough job professionally.