In late May the arrest of Camel owner Rand Burgess sparked controversy over late night No Parking signs on a W. Broad Street corridor. After weeks of meetings and discussions, a City official has announced those signs will come down.
Update #2 — August 21st, 5:15 PM
City officials indicate that the No Parking signs between the 900-2200 blocks of W. Broad Street will be removed within a week.
Councilman Charles Samuels (2nd District) said that a noon meeting was held today at the Camel between himself, Richmond Police, the West Grace Street Association, Fan District Association, and City officials. James Jackson, director of Public Works, said that the signs will come down entirely, with no new late night parking restrictions. Richmond Police will monitor the stretch of W. Broad Street, and if the area remains free of cruising the signs will remain down indefinitely.
“We were able to use experience, logic, and reason with the administration,” said Charles Samuels. “It’s really exciting to see this done.”
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Update #1 — Aug 14th, 10:15 AM
Richmond Police have attached fliers to the windshields of parked automobiles on several blocks of W. Broad Street that state new No Parking signs will be installed on Friday, August 17th. The fliers announce that the existing no parking times (11:00 PM – 4:00 AM) will be replaced with 2:00 AM – 6:00 AM. Despite what the fliers say, it’s unlikely new signs will go up this Friday.
“No signs are going up until we’ve reached a consensus,” said Councilman Charles Samuel (2nd District). “We’re going to come to a decision together…somehow the Police seemed to have decided that everything was done.” Key stakeholders in the decision are the West Grace Street Association, Fan District Association, the Richmond Police Department, and the Mayor’s Office.
Councilman Samuels said he is working to organize a meeting with local businesses, residents, police, and government officials to solidify changes to the signage encompassing more than 25 blocks of W. Broad Street from Pine Street to Boulevard. At that meeting, Samuels hopes that the Police can “explain why the [amended time] suggestion works” and have it considered by the community. “Nothing will be done until that occurs,” said Samuels.
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Original — June 14th, 1:43 PM
Two weeks ago police arrested Rand Burgess, owner of the Camel, near his 1621 W. Broad Street bar. In the wake of the incident, a late-night parking debate has entrenched Richmond Police, the Mayor, and a city councilman.
Burgess was arrested after disrupting Police officers while they issued tickets to vehicles on a stretch of W. Broad Street that forbids parking between 11:00 PM – 4:00AM. According to the Department of Public Works, the agency in charge of installing city signage, these signs stretch more than 25 blocks from Pine Street to Boulevard. The signs were first installed in December 1999 to curb cruising.
In the late 1990s, cars routinely parked on Broad Street in the late evening. Passengers of those cars would talk with pedestrians on the sidewalk and people in passing cars. “You’re giving people a place to hang out,” said Major Michael Shamus, Commander of Area 2 (third and fourth police precincts).
Maj. Shamus said that cruising created congestion and, among other things, hindered nearby stores and venues. “They’re not going into the businesses,” said the Major of cruisers. He said that cruising sometimes led to fighting, public drinking, and even death. A stabbing near the DMV on Broad Street in the late 1990s prompted a major city intervention against cruising. The next question was: how do you stop it?
One way is through a specific no-cruising ordinance. These ordinances typically limit the number of times a vehicle can drive through a specific area in a specific period of time. Captain Michael Snawder, Commander of the 4th Precinct, describes these ordinances as man-power intensive. They require several police officers to remain among popular cruising corridors and document offending vehicles. It’s a nightmare for officers and a toll on police operations. “Do we want to have police resources do that?” said Capt. Snawder. Instead the city to adopt the late night No Parking signs that targeted peak cruising times. It was a method less taxing to Police resources. Maj. Shamus said that these signs gave officers “a tool to disperse a possible incident.” A decade later, the signs have now created one.
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Before Rand Burgess’s arrest, Capt. Snawder said that local businesses had complained to the Police about late night parking as early as April. The chief complaint: offending vehicles parked overnight were disrupting customer parking during early daylight hours.
Cruising, for the most part, was a thing of the past, and it appears that the Police lessened parking enforcement as a result. But Capt. Snawder said that enforcement was not done away with outright. He cited police statistics: 4,120 parking citations have been issued between the 700-2200 blocks of W. Broad Street since July 1, 2011.1 “There’s always been enforcement,” said Maj. Shamus. It’s just been more selective.
Capt. Snawder felt it wasn’t fair to begin to suddenly crack-down on parking violations when they had not routinely done so. “My goal was to write no tickets,” said Capt. Snawder. So, for seven consecutive days, officers posted flyers on the windshields of parked cars that violated the restrictions.
Each flyer read:
Warning: Your vehicle was parked in a No Parking Tow Away Zone between the hours of 11:00pm and 4:00am. Please note that in the near future, The Richmond Police Department will begin strict enforcement of this regulation instead of issue warnings.”
It was this new “strict enforcement” that incited Rand Burgess to protest. He was arrested May 31st for obstructing justice while blocking the license plate of a customer’s car while officers attempted to write a citation. Maj. Shamus said that Burgess’s arrest has made the issue “blossom into a highly-publicized situation.” One that’s now entered the political arena.
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“Everybody agrees we need to figure out a different way,” said Councilman Charles Samuels of discussions he had with business owners and residences after Burgess’s arrest. The corridor of Broad Street with the late night parking restrictions lie within the first term councilman’s 2nd District. “They think it’s time to see if we can get the No Parking signs taken down or changed.” In contrast to local police, Samuels heard public opinions that the signs undermined businesses.
So Samuels introduced a resolution asking the Mayor and officials to study the No Parking signs. Charlie Diradour, Samuel’s opponent, quickly criticized the initiative, saying “I would not ask for a study at taxpayer expense. I would put a paper before Council next meeting that would either pull the signs down or move the hours from 2:30am until 5:30am.” Samuels said that submitting a traffic-related ordinance, as Diradour suggested, would allow the Mayor 60 days to review the proposed ordinance before the City Council could act. All the while, the signs would remain posted.
Instead, Samuels submitted a resolution, which, among other differences, allows the Mayor’s Office only 45 days to review. “This way I’ve sped up the process,” said Samuels, at least as much as a councilman could. He hopes the Mayor will act soon. The councilman has also helped coordinate a meeting Friday morning involving the Richmond Police, West Grace Street Association, Department of Public Works, and the Mayor’s Office to discuss the issue.
Tammy Hawley, the Mayor’s spokeswoman, had this to say:
“The Mayor is looking forward to receiving the input of the businesses and the residents on this matter. We don’t want to remain wedded to a system that perhaps has outlived its original purpose, but we also don’t want to open the door to a recurrence of the problems that led to the placement of the signs to begin with. Community input and direction is key, and that process will also help inform the study that Charles Samuels has called for.”
“We want to go into this meeting with an open mind,” said Maj. Shamus, adding that the Police look forward to “having the opportunity to express our public safety concerns.” Several times during the interview, Maj. Shamus said the Police are not against business development, as some have unfairly criticized after Burgess was arrested. “We’re here to promote businesses.”
When asked about his opinion on the late night parking restrictions, Maj. Shamus said: “I think the signs are there for a reason” and hinted a possible reemergence of cruising if they are removed outright. However, he said that the decision to keep, change, or remove the signs is not his to make. The Mayor and Police Chief Norwood will decide that. “Whatever decision they make, we’ll adapt to it,” said Maj. Shamus.
The community meeting is scheduled for Friday, 10:00 AM at The Empress. It is open to the public.
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- These citations include all kinds of parking violations, at all hours of the day, not just between 11pm – 4am. ↩
photo by Ashley Jenkins