CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — In a town with plenty of free parking, the city is clamping on to those who carry a thick balance of unpaid parking violations.
Starting on July 1st, Cedar Falls is breaking out the boot, a yellow device that immobilizes a vehicle, on any vehicle that draws a parking citation while already carrying at least a $30 balance in unpaid tickets.
Police Chief Jeff Olson said, in just ten days, they have only used the boot on four vehicles.
“We used to tow vehicles and, if it had a certain number of unpaid tickets, then we would have a wrecker come from the tow company,” said Olson. “The person would have to come to the police department, pay the bill, the towing company and get their own vehicle.”
Most parking violations in Cedar Falls are $10 and this threshold would mean only three unpaid citations would bring out the boot. Yet Olson said this process, rather than calling a tow truck, is actually cheaper for the violator.
“There is a $50 booting fee but it’s less than the typical $65 towing fee so, hopefully, less for the violator,” said Olson.
While not exactly a driver convenience, Olson said a boot, rather than a tow truck, also allows the driver to pay up after hours to regain the freedom to leave in their car.
The revenue raised would also stay with the city instead of with a towing company. With the price to remove the boot set at $50, Olson said thousands could come into the police department. In 2013, Olson said crews towed about 300 vehicles from parking ticket violators. If that twelve-month pace held steady, 300 booting fees would lead to $15,000 for the department. Olson said that money would go toward maintaining the city’s parking lots.
The decision to “boot” and not tow a violator’s vehicle may come as a surprise but Olson said the process shouldn’t. The city will send two letters to the person registered on the offending vehicle, warning that a boot will come with the next violation.
When the boot does arrive, the device is placed on the front left tire with a bright yellow sticker adorning the driver’s window to warn drivers not to pull away.
“It should be very obvious that you have a boot on here and a sticker on here and you shouldn’t drive away with it,” said Olson.