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Commentary – Police Fail to Help Roanokers With Parking Problems

An off duty Roanoke City police car in S.E.

Indiscriminate parking abuse has become prevalent in Southeast Roanoke and other neighborhoods: many of our front yards resemble used car lots.  The city spends millions to replace and build curbs and sidewalks but a ‘car culture mentality’ has become pervasive: cars park on curbs, over curbs, on our grassy medians, over entire stretches of sidewalks and so on.  This destructive and unsightly problem has prompted many throughout the city to repeatedly report these violations in an effort to correct these problems. I have personally been pursuing a solution to this problem for well over a decade.

Roanoke police routinely attend neighborhood meetings, conveying that our help and support is needed in the effort to clean up our neighborhoods.  However, it is seemingly not on the Police Departments ‘radar screen’ to notice and enforce these violations.

Sidewalks are for pedestrians and under no circumstance should anything be allowed to contribute to their damage or restrict access by pedestrians.  These obstructions force those in wheelchairs or parents pushing children in strollers to risk their safety by forcing them into the roadway with vehicular traffic.  One person’s careless or negligent action could lead, in the worst case scenario, to a loss of human life.

So convinced was the former city manager that she adopted my phrase ‘car culture mentality’ into her vocabulary and used this language at city council workshops.  When our new city manager arrived upon the scene, my first meeting with him was to make him aware of this problem.  I’m told he is currently working on the issue of cars parked in front yards.  Problems with parking over curbs and sidewalks clearly rests upon the shoulders of our new police chief, but sadly he has adopted the former police chief’s regressive position in this matter.  The police department’s official position, as stated in an email to me dated January 3, 2011, from Police Chief Perkins is, “whether a parking ticket is issued will remain at the discretion of the officer based on the circumstances present at the specific time and place of the incident.”

We have laws on our books to prevent damage to public property and to preserve the quality of life of city residents.  I’ve argued in vain for years that enforcing these laws should not be discretionary.  The public at large would welcome assistance from the city administration, the police department and our elected officials in helping find a solution to this long-standing problem that affects many of our neighborhoods and in particular, Southeast.

In closing, they say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Is this photo suitably convincing that Roanoke has a problem that needs addressing? This is at an officers place of residence. He is not on a call.

– E. Duane Howard

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  1. Mr. Howard…it appears to me that the officer has parked in his own yard on a snowing day to keep from obstructing snow plows from removing snow from the street so that citizens of Roanoke will not have to drive on dangerous snow covered streets and so that his city owned police car will not possibly be damaged by a motorist that goes out of control while driving on the snow covered street. You mentioned that “We have laws on our books to prevent damage to public property and to preserve the quality of life of city residents.” I think that by parking in his yard, the officer has made an effort to prevent damage to public property, i.e. the police car. Although the police car is not owned by the public, it is a vehicle owned by the city and paid for by the public through tax payer dollars. The only damage the police car may have caused is to private property – – the officer’s grass. You also stated “Sidewalks are for pedestrians and under no circumstance should anything be allowed to contribute to their damage or restrict access by pedestrians.” As you can see from the photo you sent in, the officer made sure not to block the sidewalk with his car. As a citizen of Roanoke, I agree that is important to make sure our laws and ordinances are enforced, however, I think it is ridiculous when citizens point out trivial things such as parking violations. I would rather have our police force concentrating on solving crimes such as robberies, homicides, drug offenses, etc., rather than worrying about someone that has parked in a yard.

  2. Kim: Your assumptions are somewhat wrong. Drive some of these streets in July and see where they park their cars. I have had to dodge many many rear ends hanging out of drive ways and yards while trying to walk city side walks. I guess the city feels it is safer to have a walker step into the street to dodge an illegally parked vehicle than to enforce the laws. But then it is only one of the many problems of Roanoke city!

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