Holding Milwaukee parking checkers accountable

CREATED Jul 7, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - Ever get a parking ticket you did not deserve?  You are not alone.

If you park on the street in the city of Milwaukee, the parking police will eventually find you doing something wrong.  Gino Jorgenson knows that all too well, but his parking story comes with a twist.

Gino lives in the 3500 block of South Kinnickinnic.  Last year he was ticketed for not following Milwaukee's winter night parking rules.  There's just one problem -- Gino says the city of Milwaukee shouldn't have jurisdiction in St. Francis.

Gino is right.  Milwaukee's parking checker had crossed the line, and wrote a bogus ticket.  In 2013, that happened more times than you might think.  City records show 42 tickets were voided because they were 'not in Milwaukee.'  In those cases parking checkers had crossed into the suburbs.

Milwaukee's Public Works Department would not go on camera to explain how this happens, but sent a statement:  "Our parking enforcement officers are issued maps and trained as to where city borders are, but sometimes mistakes happen."

The I-Team started tracking those mistakes 3 years ago, and since then we have seen some improvement.  To the credit of Milwaukee parking checkers, they're getting it wrong less often.

The number of tickets voided shrank from more than 30,000 in 2011 to about 22,000 last year.  What's more, parking checkers are simply writing fewer tickets:  823,000 in 2011, compared with 770,000 last year.

Some things have stayed the same--like those high-tech parking meters still causing headaches.

Alderman Bob Donovan says, "Personally, I've never liked 'em."

Donovan is an old school kind of guy, and wants to see Public Works fix the problems that keep nagging parkers--nearly 3,000 tickets, or 11 a day, were voided because of problems with those meters.  More than half of the voids were because the meters don't always communicate your payment to the parking checkers.

Again DPW responded in a statement, saying in part:  "...We realize that machines sometimes fail."

Donovan retorts, "The mission of DPW parking is to raise money for the city of Milwaukee.  That's my take on it, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just hosin' ya."

Back in St. Francis, Gino Jorgenson also suspects this is all about money.  "And that's the problem.  I think it's irresponsible to have a policy where you write the ticket and ask questions later."

After all, writing an invalid ticket takes seconds, but fighting one can take a day.  That means it's sometimes easier to pay than prove your innocence.

One piece of good news--incorrect tickets for night parking violations are almost gone.  The city's using new technology to check parking permits, and it's more accurate than people.  That is already reducing voided tickets and headaches.