Brenda Hallabough said proceeds from her garage sale this weekend will go toward paying a $103 parking ticket - instead of a holiday trip with a family to visit relatives in Colorado as she had planned.
Hallabough was one of an unknown number of Waxahachie residents who woke up Friday to soggy parking tickets left by police on their vehicle windshields during the early morning fog.
“I think that’s so cheesy,” said Hallabough, who was among Indians Hills residents ticketed in the dark. “I could see them doing it in broad daylight, but to do it at a time when a lot of people aren’t up?”
Hallabough and others were cited for parking on the wrong side of the street and against traffic - enforcement of a state law that reads a vehicle’s right-side tires must be no more than 18 inches from the curb.
Another Indian Hills resident, a police officer with another agency, received two tickets on two vehicles.
Hallabough said the officer’s wife told her it’s hard to believe there wasn’t something better for Waxahachie officers to be doing than writing parking tickets. She said the wife related that her off-duty husband had once followed a drunken driver from DeSoto through Red Oak into Waxahachie and to the man’s residence, calling for assistance along the way, with Waxahachie officers arriving only after the suspect had arrived at his home, at which time they declined to take any action.
The officer’s wife said the Waxahachie officers’ explanation to her husband was that the suspect’s wife said he “wouldn’t do it anymore.”
Hallabough said the officer’s wife told her, “This is why police get a bad reputation.”
Hallabaugh said she’s been a resident of Indian Hills for 16 years.
“We’ve always parked that way,” she said. “Why didn’t they warn us? Put something in the Daily Light or on KBEC? Other towns do warnings about stuff like red light cameras. If you’ve got some people parking too many cars wrong, go put a notice on the door.”
Hallabough said she called municipal court to ask how much the ticket was - and said she was told they had “already gotten a bunch of phone calls.”
She said she intends to organize her neighbors to appear en masse at municipal court. She acknowledges they were parked wrong - but they want to have their say as to how the city went about enforcement.
“Every dollar I make it’s like I’m a dollar closer to paying my ticket off,” said Brenda’s daughter-in-law, Kasey Hallabough, who recently was ticketed for a moving violation. “I’m going to have to waste all day Friday and Saturday to pay this off.”
Kasey was cited after accidentally turning onto a one-way street near one of the elementaries. She said she normally works Monday-Friday out of town and hadn’t noticed there were one-ways during school hours. She was recently off work on a weekday though and inadvertently went the wrong direction. Once she said she realized her mistake, she was more than halfway down the street and felt she had no choice but to continue to the street’s end, where a passing officer spotted her.
The officer was nice - but the ticket was $194, she said, saying she tried to explain she was unfamiliar with the one-ways.
“It makes you think they’re not in it for the safety but that it’s for the money,” Kasey said. “Why now? It’s like they’re on a rampage.”
Police Chief Chuck Edge said he’d received numerous complaints about the lack of parking enforcement since his arrival about seven months ago.
“I’ve been putting it out in staff meetings and roll call that we do need to enforce parking violations,” Edge told the Daily Light on Friday. “At our last staff meeting I put it out again, that we’d received another complaint.”
Edge said the increased enforcement wasn’t an overnight occurrence but had been ongoing since at least late last week - and that officers weren’t just writing tickets at night but during the day as well.
The department had been lax in enforcement in the past, but Edge said he told the city that traffic citations would be enforced under his direction.
Besides parking against traffic, complaints have been received for handicap parking violations, not parking close enough to the side of the road and commercial vehicles in the roadway, Edge said, noting the top moving violation is that of speeding.
“Whether to issue a warning or not is totally up to the officer’s discretion,” Edge said.
As to whether or not the department as a whole could have done more to inform the community of the increased enforcement of state laws, Edge said he personally didn’t feel it was necessary to do so but did say it might have prevented some of the controversy due to the number of citations issued early Friday morning.
Residents can expect to see continued, increased enforcement, Edge said, with City Manager Paul Stevens saying complaints had been received of parking violations and speeding.
On the parking violations, “it really does create a dangerous circumstance when you park on the wrong side of the street and pull out,” Stevens said. “It’s time to start enforcing for things like that.”
Enchanted Gardens also ticketed
Indian Hills wasn’t the only subdivision targeted for enforcement. Residents in Enchanted Gardens also woke up to tickets on their vehicle windshields.
Martha Hice said one of her neighbors saw the officer out writing tickets and went over to ask the officer what was going on.
“The officer told him, ‘I’m doing police business and the best thing you can do is get back in your yard,’ ” she said.
Hice saw four officers eating out together Friday evening and asked them if they felt that was the proper way for a policeman to talk to a resident, with at least two of the officers saying they apologized if someone had been treated rudely.
“They said, ‘We’re so sorry, we’re here to serve you, the citizens. We’re here to serve y’all and we’re here to keep you safe,’ ” Hice said, saying they also told her a warning had been put in the Daily Light and on KBEC.
No press release was ever received by the Daily Light pertaining to increased enforcement. It was unable to be determined if KBEC had received any information.
Hice also spoke with Edge and told him that at least 12 people she spoke with were unaware that parking against traffic was against the law.
“I’m 61,” she said, “and I’ve been driving a long time. … I didn’t know it was illegal to park and face the wrong direction.”
She said Edge told her he began pushing the officers to increased enforcement two months ago and again on Thursday.
“He told me, ‘I made a commitment to the city and its management that I was going to do the job,’ ” Hice said, saying she told him she could appreciate that but there were bigger concerns - such as speeders and drug dealers - he should be targeting.
“I just think there was a real wrong thing done here,” she said, saying there was no effort made to educate or warn the public prior to the enforcement.
People were ticketed for parking against traffic, for parking with their wheels on the sidewalk and for parking a recreational vehicle in front of a residence, she said. “They said these things are going to start being enforced. … I think there has to be an exception to the rule because there are people that visit here, but they said there will be no exceptions.
“They even gave one down here for parking in front of his own driveway. It was his own driveway - that happened,” she said.
The tickets that were issued are $103 each, with Hice saying City Manager Paul Stevens told her the state will get most of the money.
Stevens also told her “there will be further discussion on this.”
“I believe in respecting all officials and I pray for them,” Hice said. “I even thanked Police Chief Edge for having a Bible on his desk, but I do truly think what happened to the citizens was wrong. There are speeders out there and drug dealers. And they could be patrolling Wal-Mart more. I know a little lady who went out there and was robbed. She’s so scared now she won’t go back. They should be patrolling areas like that.
“I told Chief Edge, ‘I’m sure of your qualifications and I’m sure you made a promise to Waxahachie, but there are bigger issues in this town than what happened today. And I do believe more people feel this way.”
The majority of people would have complied if they had received notification about the impending increased enforcement or if instead of being ticketed had been issued a warning, Hice feels.
“I think anybody would say, I’ve done wrong, but give me a chance … $103 hurts,” Hice said. “I had a couple of people tell me this is taking their kids’ Christmas. There are a lot of people on fixed incomes in this neighborhood. I don’t think the police know the impact they had here. It’s not like it was people speeding.”
Hice said she feels City Hall and the police department needed to give residents a chance to know about the increased enforcement.
“They’ve got to remember us taxpayers are the ones that vote,” Hice said. “If they start doing us wrong, we’re going to get tired of it and vote someone different in.”
Same car ticketed twice
Stu Stephenson, a resident in Indian Hills, said his son’s car was ticketed twice in a 24-hour period.
His son’s car - which was parked out front - received its first ticket at about 4 a.m. No one went out front during the day and the ticket went unnoticed, Stephenson said.
“Apparently they (police) came back for more,” Stephenson said, saying neighbors told him officers were writing tickets again at about 4 p.m.
“I talked to the police chief and he said he’s noticed lots of parking violations all over town so he decided he’d do something about it,” Stephenson said, who said Edge “didn’t really have a response” when he asked him why there was no effort made to put out a warning via the Daily Light or KBEC.
“We’ve been out here (in Indian Hills) for 12 years and obviously it’s not the proper way to park but it’s never even been a point of conversation,” Stephenson said, noting one of the department’s officers lives with his parents down the street.
“He’s parked the right way now but quite often the police car was in violation,” Stephenson said, noting the unit would be parked the wrong way for long periods of time.
“We felt there was a little bit of a double standard,” Stephenson said, saying the chief told him the patrol car also would have been ticketed if it had been found parked against traffic.
Appearing in court
All of the people who spoke with the Daily Light expressed support for the police department, questioning only the manner in which the enforcement issue was handled in a community they describe as one still with a small-town atmosphere.
They intend to voice that sentiment in municipal court, which they’ve been told will have its next trial setting in January.
“We’re planning the same thing, to appear in court,” Stephenson said. “We’re not going to pay the ticket without protesting.”
The Daily Light could not determine how many tickets were written. Edge said he didn’t have the number and a court clerk who was inputting from a stack at least an inch in height over at City Hall said she wouldn’t know until late Friday.
The Daily Light contacted the municipal court again shortly before 5 p.m. Friday and was told to fill out an Open Records request.
E-mail JoAnn at firstname.lastname@example.org