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Police chief discusses use of chalk in parking enforcement

New signs on Marietta streets notify the public that chalking is an acceptable use of regulatory enforcement of time limits and other parking regulations. Enforcement with the use of chalking begins Monday. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

The use of chalk to monitor parking time limits is not unconstitutional, the Marietta police chief Wednesday said.

“What the district court ruled in the Saginaw (Mich.) case was that the way that city and department there used the tool was an unconstitutional search and their justifications weren’t lawful, not that chalking as a mechanism for parking enforcement was a violation of the Fourth Amendment,” Chief Rodney Hupp said.

Hupp was responding to a report in another media outlet that incorrectly said the use of chalk to mark tires was unconstitutional. Legislation passed by council this year offers the public an opportunity to “voluntarily and intelligently consent” to the use of chalk on tires prior to the practice beginning again July 6, he said.

“The public streets and public lots are there for the common good for equitable share,” he said. “There has to be fair use for all citizens, it’s essentially consenting to playground rules. If you don’t consent, that’s fine, but then park in private drives and private lots.”

Hogging a parking spot impedes the free flow of retail and walk-in restaurant commerce in the downtown, he said. Hogging a residential on-street parking spot impedes street cleaning and can lead to additional blight on city streets, as pointed out by Councilman Bill Gossett, who took issue with junk cars this week.

Parking Enforcement Officer Rob Emerick Wednesday measures the height of a vehicle blocking visibility out of Union Street onto Second Street. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

“But just like when entering the courthouse, you have to consent to a search of your purse for weapons in order to enter further and use the public space,” Hupp said. “By parking on a city street, you are consenting to the enforcement of the parking laws used to govern that street.”

Voluntary and intelligent consent has included the opportunity for public education and the new signs in downtown and throughout public parking areas in the city, Hupp said.

“There are 72 new signs downtown in addition to signs at the entrances to the city plus there are the flashing beacons up at the entrances right now reminding people that parking enforcement begins Monday,” Hupp said.

One such beacon is on Muskingum Drive across from the Ohio Department of Transportation District 10 headquarters.

Parking Enforcement Officer Rob Emerick said Wednesday that the 72 time-limits signs and the 60-inch height limit at entrances and exit locations of side streets also are part of the parking enforcement and have dual purposes.

“People seem to forget that the 60-inch limit, or 5 feet, is for visibility of someone trying to turn onto a busier road,” Emerick said as he wrote a ticket for a car parked in front of the northbound side of the Second Street entrance to Union Street between the Parking Partners lot and the Dime Bank building.

“The height limit is there so that you can see oncoming traffic and not get hit as you enter the lane,” he said.

Staying within the 1 foot or if painted a boundary box of a parking space in parallel parking areas allows for a more free flow of through traffic, he said.

“So that passing traffic doesn’t hit your side,” Emerick said.

Full enforcement of parking laws, with 30 days to pay fines for infractions, begins Monday.

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