Police Chief Michael Wynn weighed in on problems the department has with parking enforcement.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Police Advisory Committee has begun looking into the way the city handles parking.
Led by City Councilors Chris Connell and Melissa Mazzeo, a subcommittee will soon begin to look to simplify the parking laws and raise the fees.
According to Police Chief Michael Wynn, the parking laws are complicated and the fees are so low that enforcement is difficult.
"Consistency and simplicity will go a long way toward making this enforceable," Wynn said. "It's a mess. The parking enforcement in the city of Pittsfield is a mess."
Connell said the city has been taking a "Band-Aid" approach at addressing parking issues and that has created a lack of consistency — such as difference in fees for an array of parking violations and areas with different time limits.
"Everyone is concerned about the parking issues downtown," Connell said. "I think we just need some more meat on the bones to make it more important."
Connell serves on the Traffic Commission and Mazzeo on the council's Finance Committee; both are proposing to allocate more money for traffic enforcement. The two approached the committee in June about changing the fee structure so that enforcement is worth the effort.
Wynn said current fees are so low that people will take a ticket rather than move their vehicles. Additionally, there are 27 different parking violations identified in the city code with various penalties ranging from $10 to $25 with other violations on a progressive scale per offense.
For example, the first offense for overtime parking is free and progresses to $3, $5 and $10 per offense. But police officers don't have the access to the number of previous offenses while the city's parking clerks do — creating a disparity of ticket prices.
"The bigger issues is the disconnect in parking," Wynn said.
Meanwhile, all moving violations are a simple $50 fine. Wynn said providing consistency across the board will help solve the enforcement end.
Pittsfield becomes just the latest municipality to re-examine parking after the town of Adams and the city of North Adams have raised questions with how to handle parking. Connell says the effort is a start to solving what he sees as a problem affecting all aspects of the city.
In other business, Wynn reported to the committee that his officers have been making good progress on a series of residential and commercial burglaries. There is a suspect and charges forthcoming in the commercial break-ins while there are multiple parties believed to be committing the residential ones. Suspects have been identified, he said.
Wynn also said the department received more than 50 applicants for the new crime analyst position. The application period ends on Wednesday.
The department has increased foot patrols on North Street in response to Mayor Daniel Bianchi allocating additional funds to pay for overtime, said Wynn. However, there is a shortage of patrol officers volunteering for the overtime so supervisors have been forced to take those shifts, he said, racking up the costs quicker.
"It's going to be an expensive proposition," Wynn said.
Also on Monday, the committee completed a draft of new bylaws outlining how the committee will operate. The draft will be sent to the city solicitor before adopting and electing new executive officers.
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