Peterborough to continue to chalk tires for parking enforcement

  • A two-hour parking sign on School Street in Peterborough. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/1/2019 6:11:43 PM

Peterborough police will continue to chalk tires as a means of parking enforcement despite a recent court ruling that determined the practice to be unconstitutional.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled on April 22 that placing a chalk marking on a vehicle’s tire violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The decision does not currently apply to the Monadnock Region, as the court’s decision affects Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. But the decision could set a precedent moving forward.

Peterborough Police Chief Scott Guinard said Friday that he is opposed to the court’s ruling as it all comes down to “an expectation of privacy.”

“I’m not taking something from you or entering your vehicle,” Guinard said.

Guinard said he heard the ruling may be appealed. If it is, he expects the decision to be overturned.

“We do not have parking meters or kiosks [in Peterborough,]” Guinard said. “There needs to be a way to determine if a vehicle has been in a fixed location.”

Guinard said the technique has been utilized in Peterborough and many other communities since the inception of timed parking.

Some communities have now installed parking kiosks or meters, but that still requires a person to monitor the timed parking lots.

“It’s not that complicated … it’s been a longstanding, practical and cost-efficient way to enforce parking,” Guinard said, of chalking tires.

Jaffrey Police Chief Bill Oswalt said Tuesday that his department hasn’t chalked tires in “several” years.

“As I recall, we reached the conclusion that applying a mark physically to a vehicle would not be welcomed by everyone,” Oswalt said.

Instead, the town monitors the timed parking spaces visually and focuses in on cars that have egregiously violated the time limits in question.

“We aren’t particularly aggressive in enforcing parking,” Oswalt said. “We don’t have any officer dedicated to it, it’s a function of the patrol officers.”

In general, Oswalt said parking lot enforcement can be a double-edged sword in town. While there needs to be a degree of turnover for customers to be able to shop in the downtown area, there also needs to be spaces available for the employees of said businesses.

“As far as fourth amendment seizure is concerned, that’s for the courts to decide,” Oswalt said. “I could see where it might be disturbing to some.”

Wilton Police Chief Eric L. Olesen said officers in town have the tire markers in their cruisers, but don’t typically use them.

“We only have a few timed parking spots on Main Street … we haven’t had very many complaints about parking on Main Street,” Olesen said.

Instead of marking tires, officers take note of the vehicles on Main Street while on patrol.

Olesen said Tuesday he didn’t have any opinion on the courts ruling as he had yet to read it.

There have been no internal discussions about the court ruling in Peterborough, Guinard said, but if the decision is not overruled the town may look to alternative forms of parking enforcement.

“Parking enforcement is not something we do every two hours, it’s not something we always have time for because of higher priority calls,” Guinard said. “A week or two could go by without us checking; it’s not a high priority given our call volume and or staff.”

Guinard said the town would have to look to meters or kiosks as a way to enforce timed parking in town.

“There needs to be some sort of documentation of your vehicle in some way shape or form,” Guinard said. “Whether we chalk tires or take your license plate number, there needs to be a way to check and determine if a vehicle is beyond the time limit.”

Guinard said the department does not view parking enforcement as a means of generating revenue. Instead, Guinard said timed parking is enforced to encourage turnover in those parking spots.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com.


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