Parking Violators Face The Boot

Drivers who ignore parking tickets in downtown Gulfport may soon get "booted".

The City of Gulfport has agreed to purchase three of the metal devices used to immobilize the cars of those who owe multiple parking fines. It gives police another enforcement tool to help free up some much needed spaces downtown.

Downtown merchants and employees all agree there is a shortage of parking spaces. They support using "the boot" for enforcement, but some worry that won't be enough to solve the parking problem.

Cruise downtown Gulfport around lunchtime and you'll understand the challenge of finding a parking space. Downtown merchants are especially aware.

Gift shop manager, Teresa Ditmore, says customers depend on parking convenience. She says prime parking spaces are often taken by downtown employees who either ignore the two hour time limit, or move their cars around to avoid a ticket.

"Even as manager of the store I have to park way around the corner. At times it would be convenient if I could sit right up front. But we do like to leave those spots for our customers," said Ditmore.

Police enforce the two hour parking zones, but can't be everywhere all the time. The "boot" will help get the attention of those who simply ignore parking rules and tickets.

"Quite a few people that will come and park all day in these two hour parking places. And then they're ticketed. The next day they park someplace else and they're ticketed again. But they don't ever come in and pay these," said Officer Randy Brown of the Gulfport Police Department.

We talked with a group of downtown workers who understand the parking problem all too well. They know there are available lots just a few blocks away, but those free spaces can present problems.

"We end up having to park a mile away and at night it's a little intimidating to be walking out there at nighttime with no security," explained Anne Scafidi.

Police will start using the "parking boots" the first of next year. The enforcement specifics are still being worked out, but the boots will most likely be used on those drivers who are parked illegally and have at least three outstanding unpaid parking tickets.