The city of Atlanta is looking for a new agency to enforce parking regulations because many people don’t like how PARKAtlanta has been doing the job. One complaint about the company has been that it "boots" too many vehicles. That means locking the wheel of a car until the driver pays a fine.
What people don't seem to understand is PARKAtlanta doesn’t do it much. Most vehicle immobilization in the city is privately done on private property.
The City Of Atlanta’s Role
At the company's downtown office, PARKAtlanta head Anderson Moore explains: “The person who’s been booted, if you will, has received three or more parking citations. The last parking citation is at least 45 days old, and they have not made an attempt to pay it and/or challenge the citation.”
Moore says city ordinances lead to about 50 boots a month.
Along For The Ride
That clarified, I step outside the office and into a truck with PARKAtlanta "booter" Patrick Smith to see how it's done.
“You know you have your hunting holes … where all the fish may be,” he says. “Then you have your other lakes. You might find some; you might not.”
The truck has cameras on top that scan license plates. Each scan makes a beeping sound inside the truck, and a car eligible for booting would set off an alarm.
As for Smith, he’s 5 feet 11 inches, 210 pounds and not afraid of confrontation. He says he finds common ground with people, like one time a man got really angry.
“And he was just carrying on, ‘I don’t know. I ain’t got no tickets. I don’t have any tickets,’” Smith recalls. “So I was like, ‘You let your wife drive your car?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, she drives my car all the time.’ I said, ‘That’s where your tickets come from.’” The man’s wife eventually admitted the tickets were hers.
Getting The Boot
During my drive with Smith, we never hear that alarm, so Smith demonstrates booting on my car.
He explains: “I’m holding a mobilization boot, a wheel lock. It looks like a horseshoe, what you use in the backyard. So, you just put it [through the spokes of the car wheel], slide it in, easy as pie.”
Paying to have a boot removed takes about two minutes by smart phone. Smith says he unlocks the boot within an hour of payment.