Once Aaron Sparks found out that Buffalo police officers issued more than twice as many parking tickets last month as they did in January 2005, the rash of tickets he has received made more sense.
"I've been ticketed three times in the last month and a half," said Sparks, who was parked on Cleveland and Elmwood avenues Sunday afternoon, waiting for his passenger to return from Spot Coffee.
Buffalo police officers issued 5,610 tickets in January, compared with 1,920 during January last year, according to a report Sunday in The Buffalo News.
While Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President Robert Meegan insisted that the increase is due to a new "zero tolerance" law enforcement campaign, some officers, who declined to be named, told The News that part of the crackdown is related to frustration over a wage freeze.
A half-dozen motorists interviewed along Elmwood and Hertel avenues Sunday had a variety of opinions about the ticket blitz, but only Sparks said he has felt it personally.
Sparks acknowledged the tickets may have been legitimate but said that one of the three tickets he received left a bad taste in his mouth.
"I pulled up to [a store on Elmwood Avenue], and I ran in for about a minute and a half, and I got a ticket," he said. "I came out as the officer came out, and she just kept writing it."
Sparks and the others interviewed did share one sentiment: While police are deserving of raises, it's not fair if some officers are issuing more tickets to show their displeasure at not getting more money.
"Just being vindictive against the taxpayers isn't right," said Ralph Baker, a Main Street resident who was parked along Hertel Avenue.
"I don't think it's fair to blame the people who live here," added Janet McNally, who had just parked her car on Ashland Avenue. She added that she would want to know more about their dispute before coming down too hard on police officers.
The Police Benevolent Association negotiated raises with the city in 2003 in exchange for giving the city scheduling flexibility and the right to have one-officer patrol cars.
While the city has implemented those changes, negotiated raises for all city employees have been frozen by the control board overseeing city finances.
Lafayette Avenue resident Georgia Pooley, a nurse, said those who park illegally shouldn't complain when they are cited for it.
But she wasn't overly sympathetic toward police officers, saying she hadn't received a raise in some time, either. "The city's got to pull in its belt," she added.
Ashland Avenue resident Mitchell Stewart said he understood where officers are coming from because he's a lieutenant in the Fire Department. "I'm ticked off because I haven't gotten a raise, either," he said.
Stewart said he hadn't noticed any increased enforcement on his street. "I haven't gotten any tickets," he said.
Sparks said his recent experience with tickets has made him extra careful about parking.
"I'll definitely put a quarter in the meter, that's for sure," he said.