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Parking cops tell Liu ticket quotas don’t exist

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City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), chairman of the Council's Transportation Committee, spent nearly 40 minutes questioning police officials Monday to determine if traffic agents are under pressure to write a lot of tickets.Capt. John Valle, chief of police traffic enforcement who testified at the hearing at City Hall, denied there were quotas mandating a minimum number of tickets a traffic agent must write. Valle said more than 200 traffic agents had been hired in the past year, bringing the total to 1,100."In addition to accuracy... we also evaluate performance of traffic agents and their commands by productivity," Valle said. But both Valle and Assistant Police Commissioner Susan Potito denied the agency establishes quotas for traffic enforcement agents.Liu said the productivity goals "whether they are called quotas or other names do place greater pressure on traffic agents to issue tickets.""That pressure potentially results in subjective enforcement that does not serve the public good," said.In the course of the public hearing on how police enforce parking regulations, police officials said the traffic agents were frequently targets of abuse and threats from motorists.The danger faced by traffic officers was related when Councilwoman Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) asked if it was a problem, adding, "I have seen traffic agents spat on and subjected to other abuse."On the other hand, Councilman Miguel Martinez (D-Manhattan) told the police traffic officials the approach of traffic agents in his Upper Manhattan neighborhood causes "tension, fear and sends people running for their cars to move them."Martinez told of a traffic agent who once had oil spilled on him by irate residents of his district."Some of our people think of these agents as predators," Martinez said.Valle said parking enforcement agents are given no discretion on whether to ticket a vehicle, a policy attacked by Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn), who described instances he said were emergencies that warranted leniency by the agents in cases of double parking."Why cannot these agents ask a motorist to move or do something other than immediately hand out a ticket?" he said.Representatives of small trucking firms told of trying to make deliveries in areas so crowded that double parking was the only alternative to getting ticketed.But Potito said the agency's mission was "to keep our streets clear for the passage of police cars, ambulances and other emergency vehicles."On another issue, the Transportation Committee approved unanimously legislation requiring the Taxi and Limousine Commission to approve the use of clean air hybrid-electric taxis within 90 days after passage by the City Council.Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

Updated 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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