Sunport police chief defends ticketing tactics

sunport tickets

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Albuquerque Aviation Police don’t have to worry about getting any lip when they write the vast majority of their parking tickets. That’s because most of the drivers being ticketed at the Sunport have no idea they’ve been cited until they return from their trip and get back to the car they parked in a city-owned lot.

A KRQE News 13 review of parking tickets written at the Sunport in 2014 showed four out of every five citations were written for expired registrations. Nearly all of those tickets were slipped under the windshield wiper of cars parked in the city’s short and long-term lots.

That means that drivers who returned to a ticket on their windshield were paying to park while police were ticketing them.

“We’re asking you in a nice way, in a compelling way, get it registered, remedied, move on and be safe,” said Aviation Police Chief Marshall Katz.

Katz said his officers regularly patrol the more than 3,500 parking places located just across the street from the terminal. To him, the 351 tickets written for expired registration stickers last year are a drop in the bucket.

Officers on patrol through the lots are “looking for suspicious things,” Katz said. “Did someone leave their car unlocked, is the window down, is the trunk open, is the door open? Is a plate expired? Is a car stolen? It’s one of the many levels of security we provide to the public regarding your vehicle.”

Dolly Azar, just back from a trip to San Diego, could do without that level of security.

“That’s not cool,” she said. “They need to work for it. Don’t just come and take advantage of poor travelers.”

Azar’s husband, Joe, had a different take. “It doesn’t bother me. Everybody should pay, right?”

The pair used to park at the more-convenient city lots at the Sunport but have since started parking at one of a handful of private parking facilities near the airport, mostly because it’s cheaper to park there.

Katz said his ticketing tactics aren’t a thinly veiled attempt to boost revenue. He pointed out that tickets written for expired registrations are often dismissed if a driver can show a judge that they’ve registered their vehicle. If a driver does choose to pay the fine, money from tickets written at the Sunport goes into the city’s parking enterprise fund, which helps pay for meters and enforcement officers citywide — not just at the airport.

It’s impossible to stand near baggage claim carousels or ticket counters at the Albuquerque airport for more than five minutes without hearing prerecorded announcements warning travelers that “the curbside is for loading and unloading only.” Violators, the disembodied male voice intones, “may be ticketed and towed.”

That’s rarely the case. Aviation police wrote just 87 tickets last year for stopping or standing in a prohibited zone such as the lanes along the arrival and departure levels.

“Most people know you have to keep moving,” Katz explained. The constant reminders and foot patrols by security guards at the airport reinforces the message to drivers.

But plenty of people forget to renew their vehicle registration.

Katz doesn’t anticipate changing ticket-writing policies anytime soon and said while people may have a gut reaction to getting a ticket while paying for parking, “Honestly, I get very few complaints.”

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