Parking enforcement officers are here to help. Really.

| May 2, 2013 | 0 Comments
PARK AND PAY STATIONS and smart meters are more efficient as well as tamper proof, said Officer Charles Harrell.

PARK AND PAY STATIONS and smart meters are more efficient as well as tamper proof, said Officer Charles Harrell.

A member of one of the most despised groups ever, Parking Enforcement and Traffic Control officer Charles Harrell says he doesn’t take it personally.

In fact, he says, he’s made a lot of friends in Squad Area 4—which includes Larchmont Village. At Peet’s Coffee, Harrell is greeted by smiles and waves. “Has anyone forgotten to pay?” he asks a group of people sipping coffee at sidewalk tables. “Space 363 is about to expire.”

“Honestly,” says Harrell, dapper in a neatly pressed uniform. “We’re here to help. A lot of enforcement has to do with the flow of traffic, keeping things moving and stopping safety hazards.”

In addition to expired meters, Harrell and the other officers who cover the area enforce two-hour time limits. “We want turnover so that more people can park. If someone wants to stay all day, there are all day lots.”

Harrell says the card and coin meters along with park and pay stations used in the Village are much more efficient than the old meters. “You have multiple ways to pay, either with a credit or debit card or coins. And the smart meters are tamper proof. He realizes, however, they are often hard to read. “The department is constantly evaluating, so people need to speak up.” He cautions drivers paying with credit cards to make sure the payment has been authorized before walking away.

As for quotas, Harrell says there’s no such thing. “We write what we see. Listen, I’m not jonesing to write tickets. Even though I can get instant information on my handheld for the entire street, I just walk it, and as I come to it, I come to it,” he says of expired meters.

Strolling down the block, we watch a woman park her car, feed the meter and walk away. To demonstrate how his handheld works, Harrell enters number 214—the space she parked in. It shows up as “expired.” As he begins entering her license plate number, the woman returns. “Oh my gosh, are you giving me a ticket? I just paid for two hours!” she exclaimed, pointing to the number 213 on the sidewalk.

“This is one of the things that happens over and over again,” Harrell says. “People really need to be mindful of the space number and make sure it’s the one that’s directly in front of their car.”

While he feels the driver’s pain, he has no choice but to issue her a ticket. “Once the information is entered, I can’t go back.” Another problem is when drivers mistake the street address that’s painted on the side of the curb with the parking meter number that’s painted on the sidewalk. Yet another is parking in painted curb zones.

As Harrell explains the restrictions­—red means no parking ever; yellow zones are for commercial loading and white for passenger loading—a black SUV hangs a U-turn and screeches to a halt in a loading zone at Sam’s Bagels.
“Are you kidding?” I ask, as the woman saunters into Sam’s. “Aren’t you going to give her a ticket?”

“If she was loading or unloading a big box or something, I’d give her five minutes. It’s kind of our internal policy we do for citizens. But after that, I’d ticket her.”

Then there are the drivers who park in red zones to run into Crumbs. “It blocks access to and view of the crosswalk. It’s extremely dangerous and an automatic ticket.” Also dangerous is people who do U-turns to grab an empty spot on the other side of the street. “We can’t ticket them for the U-turn, which is illegal. But we’ll ticket them for parking outside of the meter lines, because it makes it hard for people to park next to them.”

In the end, said Harrell, “We practice proactive enforcement. We’re always looking for ideas of better ways to serve the public.”

Information on paying and contesting tickets can be found on the back of citations. Send comments to


Category: People

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