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In Kenmore, three strikes for parking scofflaws; Law would OK towing for past-due tickets

People who fail to pay their parking tickets in the Village of Kenmore might learn the hard way the meaning of the phrase "three strikes and you're out."

A proposed local law that officials will discuss next month would give the village the authority to tow vehicles with three unpaid parking tickets. Fines would have to be paid before police issue a release for the vehicles; there also will be towing and storage charges to pay.

"It would behoove them to settle the fines quickly," Police Chief Carl J. LaCorte said Wednesday.

A public hearing on the local law is scheduled for the March 6 Village Board meeting. If approved, it would be a few more weeks before it takes effect.

"If you come in now, you save your car from being towed," LaCorte said.

Between 4,500 and 5,000 parking tickets are issued annually, the chief said. The 2011 total was 4,562.

Kenmore is owed an estimated $500,000 in unpaid fines dating back to 2003, according to LaCorte. A 341-page list identifies almost 12,000 license plates.

Under the proposed law, that list would be narrowed to three-time offenders, and notices would go out.

"We are not going after that person that's only got one," the chief said.

Passage of the law obviously would be a windfall for village coffers, but LaCorte said that's not his motivation.

"My job is to get bad guys off the street," LaCorte said. "I'm not saying you're a criminal, but you're not law-abiding if you're not paying your tickets."

As of now, parking tickets are supposed to be paid within 10 days. Fines range from $15 for an expired meter to $80 for parking in a handicapped zone; $30 of the latter is a state surcharge.

If the 10-day deadline is missed, a notice is sent out advising that the fine has been doubled. If the fine still remains unpaid, a second notice goes out.

The City of Buffalo goes further. A 1992 law gave it and the state's five other major cities the authority to ask the state Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend vehicle registrations for nonpayment.

Kenmore opted not to pursue that option because of the time and paperwork involved, LaCorte said.

Enforcement of the proposed law would be aided by license plate readers on two of the department's vehicles.

Along with daily updates from the state DMV regarding suspensions and stolen plates, among other things, the village can input the offending plate numbers.

Cameras mounted at the front and back of police vehicles can read the plates of moving and parked vehicles, spanning the width of a street. A plate match is indicated by a siren and a photo of the plate locked on the device's screen.

"If we didn't have that technology, I don't know how we would be able to enforce a law like this," LaCorte said.