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Metered time is on her side

She drives a white truck with amber lights and carries a computerized ticket generator and a stack of orange envelopes. Nicole Provenzano, 33, of Buffalo, is one of the city parking enforcement officers who finds her work in the spotlight as a result of a ticket blitz by Buffalo police officers.

How did you get this job?

I started seven and a half years ago. I used to work in the city clerk's office, issuing marriage licenses. It wasn't a permanent job, so I would go down to civil service to see what was posted. This was posted, and I thought it would be interesting, and I did fairly well on the exam.

Do you run into a lot of annoyed people?

Sure, you do get your handful that aren't real happy. Because I'm in a neighborhood, it's usually alternate parking [violations] and you're catching people that are still in bed, so they're not going to come out while you're writing the ticket. Downtown, where I worked for four and half years, it's different. You see a ton of people on a daily basis.

Are you trained how to handle angry people?

For the most part, you're supposed to just walk away. We're taught to protect ourselves -- you get back in your vehicle and drive off.

Do you hear a lot of interesting excuses for why people are parked illegally?

It's usually always the same thing -- "I just ran in for five minutes," or "I was unloading something and my meter ran out." If they come out and they are nice enough and they're going to move it or throw a quarter in the meter, I would much rather use my discretion and give them a break, because tickets are expensive.

How much are the fines?

They range from $30 to $100. An overtime meter ticket or an alternate parking ticket is $30; the $100 ticket is if you're parked in a handicapped spot with no permit.

Has the extra attention to the police ticket blitz made your job harder?

I've had people come up to me and say, "You guys are pushing the rest of the people in Buffalo out of the city." A lot of people don't understand that we're not connected to the police department.

People complain that meters are broken.

The majority of them work properly, but legally, if you do park at a broken meter, you should move to a spot where the meter is not broken. If there's nothing else open, you can write a note and put it under your windshield wiper so if we come to enforce it, we'll call one of the four meter mechanics to fix it.

What would you like people to know about your job?

It just comes down to, if you're going to park illegally, you have to expect that you might get a ticket. And if it's worth taking that chance, then that's your choice, but it's always so much easier to throw a quarter in the meter or find a legal spot to park.

Do you always feed the meter when you park?

Always. In my personal vehicle, I always park legally, always.


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