AAA Mid-Atlantic: Wilmington parking enforcement system in need of overhaul

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AAA Mid-Atlantic is calling for an overhaul Wilmington’s parking enforcement system following reports on WDEL’sRick Jensen Show on July 26 and July 29.

Carol Arnott-Robbins, a local real estate agent discussed her parking ticket battle with the city. That led to callers recounting stories of their experiences with an apparently bogus ticket.

“I am a big supporter of our city and our mayor but something has to be done here to address this parking problem,” Arnott-Robbins sated.

The system has been viewed by businesspeople and other critics as a factor in the negative perception of the city. Complaints have ranged from bogus tickets from broken meters to strict enforcement in certain areas and looking the other way in others.

Wilmington is also a booting capital when it comes to ticket enforcement. The number of boots placed on wheels comes within 1,000 of much larger Washington, D.C Its ticket price of $40 is also high when compared to other smaller cities. (Personal computer users can click on the chart below for an enlarged view.

“We know that Carol Arnott-Robbins’ experience is not unique – there are many more Carols out there,”said Cathy Rossi, vice president of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.“We have asked the City of Wilmington to fully review and audit its parking enforcement systems, policies, and procedures to ensure fairness to motorists and compliance with state and city code.”

“More than a year ago, we heard from members and looked at their complaints about improper Wilmington parking tickets, appeals, booting, and towing. What we initially thought were ‘glitches’ in the system may be a normal course of business, leaving many motorists stuck with erroneous tickets trying to navigate a broken system,” said Rossi.

The effort by AAA included comparisons with other cities. Wilmington’s $40 parking tickets are double the figure for Newark and even Washington, D.C. an area known for aggressive enforcement.

Wilmington-based AAA said the city’s top priority appears to have been revenue generation. To that end, a series of tactics were developed to maximize revenue while leaving drivers with misinformation, frustration, and a loss of trust in the system.

“We know the mayor and administration are working on it and hope that changes will be coming to address what appear to be a plethora of parking-related problems. This problem did not begin with this administration but we hope it can end with it,” said Rossi.

“We have and will continue to review any information and assertions presented to us by AAA Mid-Atlantic as part of an internal examination of our parking and ticketing processes which has been underway for a few months, said John Rago, deputy chief of staff for policy and communications for the mayor’s office. “Our goal is to continue to improve our enforcement and customer service efforts. We view each credible slice of information we receive as an opportunity to increase government efficiency regarding the enforcement of parking and traffic laws”

In June, AAA compiled and shared specific concerns over the policies, practices and lack of oversight with the City of Wilmington, including:

  • A lack of statutory authority for the Office of Civil Appeals as well as any legal or regulatory framework regarding its responsibilities and the rights of aggrieved drivers
  • Miscommunication issues, including:
    • missing and misleading signage on the city streets
    • complete denials of fact when drivers contact the city on parking ticket issues
    • failing to provide adequate time and legal notice for appeals to JP Court
  • A complete lack of oversight by the City over its towing contract and years of violation of state and city code concerning the written notification of drivers that their vehicle had been towed by the cty
  • The City continues to issue notices to drivers and continues to add fines to drivers who have appealed parking tickets, in violation of the city’s own written policy

AAA did report the city has made some initial reforms based on motorist concerns that include the following

  • The city has ended a 16 year practice of threatening drivers with Bench Warrants and Contempt of Court charges . The city does not have the authority to take such actions.
  • The city properly programmed the kiosks on the Riverfront so they will no longer accept payments on weekends or other times the city does not charge for parking – seven months later, the city changed the signs on the kiosks to reflect that compliance.

AAA remains concerned over a 2020 budget figure of slightly more than $3 million for parking tickets and booting fines.This change reflects a $238,000 decline in projected citations, offset by a $300,000 increase due to improved collections of existing receivables.

On a related note, AAA is concerned that the city is now entering into a contract with a company that will act as its “collection agency” pursuing drivers who may think they had successfully appealed parking tickets over the past seven years, but may still be listed as violators and subject to collections.

AAA recommended the following actions for motorists.

Anyone who has received a parking ticket from the city to obtain the outcome from those tickets in writing in order to avoid any confusion in the future:

  • Follow all posted signs, if there’s any question about parking in a particular spot, don’t
  • Use Parkmobile– a parking app that allowsdrivers to pay for parking through their phone in all parts of Wilmington except the Riverfront since the Fall of 2017 – whenever possible to create an electronic record
  • If you receive a ticket you do not believe is legitimate, take photos of your vehicle and all parking signs in the area, send in a written appeal via registered or certified mail – request a written response
  • If you receive a notice stating you did not respond to the ticket and now owe more money after submitting an appeal, contact the City of Wilmington at 302-576-2620
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