Booting policy earns big money

Some student drivers on campus familiar with paying vehicle violation fees may wonder what happens to the money collected.

Motorists are required to pay $55 to have a boot removed from their vehicles and an additional $80 if the car is towed.

Since the University implemented the booting system at the beginning of the school year, 30 to 40 vehicles are booted weekly, said James W. Lockley Jr., assistant chief of police for the Florida A&M University Department of Public Safety. Money collected for booting totals an estimated $1,650 to $2,200 per week – about $30,000 per semester and $60,000 for the entire academic year.

“Originally, the money that was collected from vehicle violations went to a private entity, not the University,” said Lockley. “The funds were given to the towing company who removed the car from campus.”

Now, funds collected from boots and other violations remain on campus and are used toward funding vehicle decals and lot maintenance.

“Officials saw it as an inconvenience to the students when they towed cars away because (students) were left with having to go through the process of locating the whereabouts of their vehicles,” Lockley said.

Students had to go to the police department, fill out an information release form and then find out which of the three contracted towing companies held their vehicles, Lockley said. He stressed that the new booting implementation serves as a positive aspect because vehicles are left on campus.

The majority of students whose vehicles are booted have outstanding parking violations and owe as much as $500 in tickets alone.

Once a boot has been placed on a vehicle, violators have 48 hours to pay the fees to have it removed. If fees are not paid within that time, University police contact towing companies to have the vehicle removed. The only way a car will be towed without being ticketed first, is if a vehicle is parked in a faculty parking space.

“We tow around three vehicles a week from FAMU, compared to six per week at Florida State, which is not that bad,” said John Baker, owner of American Eagle Towing Company. “Most of the violations we find are motorists parked in reserved parking spaces and fire lanes.”

Baker said his company charges up to $80 for full-service towing, or $40 if the car is released while it is still on campus. He said motorists at FAMU pay lower fees than drivers at any of the other schools holding contracts with his company, including local high schools, so they should not complain about fees.

Darrah Gaither, 22, a senior public relations student from Atlanta, said she doesn’t think the fees are too expensive and wants to see more violations directed at drivers who cause problems for other motorists, such as double parking.

“I’m not against booting because it’s cheaper than having your car towed across the city,” Gaither said. “What I don’t like is having to drive around in circles at the parking garage, only to find a car parked in two spaces. Those are the people who need to be towed.”

Gaither said the booting problem and towing would decrease if more parking spaces were created.

University officials said additional garages can be built, but it would be at the students’ expense.

“To build a parking garage, it would cost between $13,000 to $16,000 per parking space,” Lockley said. “Students are currently paying $49 in transportation fees on our campus, compared to FSU students who pay roughly $90 in transportation fees and an additional 3 to 6 cents per credit hour to cover the cost of newly built garages and other facilities on their campus.”

Lockley said a plan of action to build additional parking spaces on campus is underway. He said the University is working to identify locations where they can be built.

There are 4,600 parking spaces on campus. Of those spaces, 2,600 are for students with registered decals. Because freshmen are not allowed to have vehicles on campus, Lockley said every student who has a registered decal should be able to find a parking space.

“I challenge any student who says that they cannot find a parking space on this campus at any time,” Lockley said. “I can go out and within minutes, find a parking space for them. It may not be close to their class, but I guarantee that I can find a space for them.”