Juan Guerrero has a pet peeve: People who illegally park in a disabled parking space.
“I’m a disabled vet,” Guerrero says. “And I was always irked when someone parked in my spot.”
Then he learned about a volunteer program with the Dallas Police Department called Citizens Helping In Parking Solutions, or CHIPS. Now Guerrero belongs to a group of neighborhood residents who patrol parking lots to write tickets and educate the public about the laws regarding disabled parking spaces.
“We look as our job as two-fold — education and enforcement,” says Joseph Saar, a CHIPS volunteer.
Before hitting the parking lots, they undergo extensive training. They receive six hours of classroom training, covering how to avoid conflict and how to write tickets. After the classroom, new trainees ride with an experienced volunteer for a while.
The volunteers have a strict protocol. No weapons, no confrontations and they must wear a uniform — slacks with a white shirt bearing the Dallas Police Department volunteer logo. They work in two-hour shifts and patrol with a partner in their own cars, bearing a magnetic decal provided by the police department.
“We represent the Dallas police department and the city of Dallas,” Saar says.
Any parking lot within the Northeast Police Division patrol area is fair game. But the volunteers have their favorite spots, such as Presbyterian Hospital and NorthPark Center. Business owners also complain if too many people illegally park in their lot. At their request, the CHIPS volunteers have helped clean up the Palomar and the Arboretum. And for a while Guerrero and another volunteer worked on Sundays, cruising neighborhood churches where people would illegally park while in services.
“It’s a tremendous asset to the force,” says Sr. Cpl. Jason Sibley, who works with the volunteers. “There’s only so many officers, and we’re usually going from call to call to call.”
When patrolling, CHIPS volunteers work quickly, covering about 25 miles a shift and writing up to 10 tickets an hour. They pull into a parking lot, spot the disabled spots, and cruise by to check the plates and placards. They can write tickets for no placard or plate, a fraudulent placard, or blocking a disabled access. And the tickets come with a hefty $100 fine that bumps up to $195 if it’s not paid within 15 days.
By the end of October, the CHIPS volunteers in the Northeast Division had written 203 tickets so far this year.
“It’s a sense of community,” Sibley says. “It’s something inside that makes them want to serve.”
For information about CHIPS or other volunteer opportunities with the police department, contact Sr. Cpl. Jason Sibley at 214.6707768 or Jason.email@example.com, or visit northeastcrimewatch.org.
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