Parking Authority combats Downtown meter vandalismWritten by Justin R. Kalmes | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Downtown Toledo Parking Authority is looking for ways to combat vandalism after approximately 99 of its parking meters were broken into or damaged Labor Day weekend.
Clayton Johnston, the DTPA’s president, said thieves made off with about $400 in coins during the spree, which took place the nights of Sept. 2 and 3. He said meter destruction has become a “significant problem” this summer with about 250 units receiving damage in that time.
Though the amount of money stolen from the meters has been small because meters are regularly emptied, Johnston said the problem is chronic because of the costs involved with fixing and replacing units.
“It’s just a huge expense to the Parking Authority and the City of Toledo to combat this,” Johnston said. “It seems to have escalated this summer.”
The parking authority has about 1,000 meters in operation that cost about $400 each, Johnston said. Thieves are using a variety of tools and means to break into the meters, such as smashing them with sledgehammers or sawing them open with power tools, he said.
“They’ve used some pretty heavy construction equipment to break into these meters,” Johnston said. “It’s amazing.”
To combat the problem, the Parking Authority will install cast-iron vaults in 200 meters in the Warehouse District and on 10th, 11th and 12th streets. Johnston described the safeguards as “virtually impregnable,” but said nothing is 100-percent secure. He said cameras are in place throughout the Downtown area to catch criminals in action and identify them to Toledo police.
“We have security watching the meters at night, but they can’t be everywhere at once and that’s always a problem,” Johnston said.
Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said parking meter theft is not a new problem. He said officers have caught several people in the last year breaking into meters.
“Our officers do their best to try and apprehend individuals that are doing this and they have been successful in making apprehensions,” Navarre said.
The penalty for breaking into a meter is usually a misdemeanor offense such as petty theft or tampering with a coin machine, Navarre said. Several people have been caught and convicted of stealing from meters more than once, he said.
“It’s a never-ending battle,” Navarre said.
Johnston said the DTPA is negotiating with several companies to conduct a demonstration of multi-space parking kiosks that would accept credit cards and coins. The kiosks would manage eight to 10 spaces and would allow customers to move between spots Downtown without paying several times. The machines would print a receipt with an expiration time that would be placed on the dashboard, he said.
A similar system has been in place in Toronto for several years and has been highly regarded, Johnston said.
He said the DTPA would start by conducting an internal demonstration of the kiosks at Government Center or the Lucas County Courthouse before moving them to the street. Johnston intends to have a demonstration later this month or in early October.
As for the current problem, he warned those responsible that they will eventually get caught.
“People need to know it’s against the law, it’s robbery,” Johnston said. “Tampering with meters is against the law and they’ll get arrested for it.”