Thursday, March 18, 2004

Oxford argues who can write tickets

Police chief in favor of volunteers

By Jon Gambrell
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - In this college town, where parking spaces have always been scarce for residents and Miami University students, City Council is considering letting civilian police volunteers issue parking citations.

In a presentation to council Tuesday night, Oxford Police Chief Stephan Schwein said that by allowing citizen volunteers to issue certain parking tickets, police officers would have more time to be on the street.

"Last year, we wrote $135,000 worth of these kind of tickets," he said. "It takes up a lot of time. We're looking to alleviate officer time."

Schwein said the volunteers, who have passed through the department's citizen's police academy, would undergo additional training and would report directly to his office.

According to police, one in nine calls to dispatchers involves parking complaints.

Though many council members agreed that parking was a large concern in town, some balked at what was dubbed by several people as an "Andy Griffith" solution.

"There is something bothersome to me on this," said Councilman Dave Prows. He sees "large potential" for overzealous ticket-writing. "I have problems with individual citizens going out and giving other individual citizens tickets."

Councilwoman Frances Liu said she didn't think allowing Miami University student volunteers to issue tickets to residents was a good idea and worried about volunteers being assaulted by irate car owners.

If confronted, Schwein said volunteers were trained to simply go back to the volunteer cruiser and call for police backup if situations got out of hand. The volunteers are also covered under the city's liability.

Roughly 100people have graduated from Oxford's citizen police academy, with 14of them actively on citizens' patrol.

Policing by volunteers also concerned 27-year-old Brian Urell, a Miami student who works as a pizza deliveryman.

"I've seen parking violations on a ridiculous magnitude all across Oxford," he said. "I certainly agree with the concept, but I would feel a little uncomfortable of having someone being less formally trained and less capable of telling if a situation does warrant a ticket or one that might be passable."

Council will decide the issue at the next meeting, on April 6.


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