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Drivers, beware Kenmore's proposed parking rules aim to crack down on scofflaws

At first glance, the proposed local law in the Village of Kenmore that would allow authorities to tow vehicles with three unpaid parking tickets seems a little harsh. But after some thought, it seems reasonable.

Village officials will decide next month whether to impose this new penalty. Fines would have to be paid before police issue a release for the vehicles, and there also would be a charge for towing and storage.

It brings to mind a scene out of A&E's "Parking Wars," a reality show in which parking offenders often find themselves speaking to bureaucrats behind Plexiglas. Oftentimes, the camera shows upset owners of vehicles pleading or even yelling that it's all been a big mistake. Usually, it's not.

The easy solution is, of course, to obey the law. Even parking laws.

Critics might argue that Kenmore is just trying to raise money by targeting motorists who are, for the most part, law-abiding citizens. But the village has left too much money on the table already.

Kenmore is owed an estimated $500,000 in unpaid fines dating back to 2003, according to Police Chief Carl J. LaCorte. Not exactly chump change to any municipality.

Fiscal realities cannot be ignored. But it also should be noted that the proposed law would apply only to three-time offenders, and notices would get sent beforehand.

Right now, parking tickets are to be paid within 10 days, with fines ranging from $15 for an expired meter to $80 for parking in a handicapped zone, with $30 of that ticket going to a state surcharge.

As reported, if the 10-day deadline is missed, a notice is sent out advising the fine has been doubled and if the fine remains unpaid, a second notice goes out.

The proposed law would, in some sense, simplify things. Three strikes and the vehicle gets towed. Shouldn't be too hard for owners to keep track of that rule, especially not after breaking it and discovering the consequences.

Kenmore's proposal doesn't go as far as the City of Buffalo, which is allowed by a 1992 state law to ask the state Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend a vehicle registration for nonpayment of fines.

A public hearing on the proposed local law is scheduled for Tuesday's Village Board meeting and, if approved, would take effect a few weeks later.

Kenmore already has the reputation for scrupulously enforcing laws against speeding. Drivers know they can't stray far above 30 miles per hour in the village. Peter Breitnauer, the village's assistant police chief, said a few years ago: "We are strict about enforcing our laws. We do it, and we're proud of doing it." Now the notion of not paying parking tickets will have to change, or scofflaws will find themselves without wheels.