January 20, 2016

ALL IN A DAY’S WORK: Everything You Want to Know About Parking From the Man Who Knows: Greg Glassen

all in a days work

PARKING ENFORCEMENT FROM A TO Z: Greg Glassen is one of three Princeton meter officers, but he does a lot more than just give out parking tickets in his multiple roles with the Princeton Police Department.

Ever have trouble parking in downtown Princeton? You might have seen Greg Glassen around town in his role as parking enforcement officer or perhaps keeping the traffic moving and the kids crossing safely at the morning school crossings. Or maybe at Communiversity, or a parade, or a storm emergency, or any one of many other events and special occasions where he helps out his Princeton Police Department colleagues. Greg, age 55, retired from the West Windsor Police Department in 2009 after 21 years, joined Princeton Parking Enforcement temporarily in 2010, then in 2012 took on his current full-time position as one of three meter officers in town. He loves the job, enjoys the camaraderie with his PD colleagues and enjoys meeting all kinds of people in the course of a day’s work. “He’s outgoing,” says his boss, Sgt. Steven Riccitello. “He’s high-energy. He’s got a great personality, gets along with everybody. He’s an asset to the Police Department with his experience. He wears a lot of hats.” Recently married, Greg lives with his wife and seven-month-old daughter. Here, in his own words, Greg talks about the life of a parking enforcement officer.

I was always interested in police work, even as a teenager. I grew up in North Brunswick, then went into the Air Force, where I studied electronics and became more and more interested in police work, so once I got out I started to pursue that career.

Weekends are always different, but during the school year my day starts at 7:45 at the school crossings. With my police background I handle the crossings where traffic gets heavy, making sure the kids get across the street safely, making sure the traffic moves, dealing with cars and bicyclists, paying attention to the kids when they get to that crossing, then getting them across in one piece.

I like being out there with the people. I get more waves, people saying hello. I make more friends out there on that school crossing post. During the holidays somebody stopped right in the middle — they stopped traffic and walked right out to the middle to give me a card and said, “Hey, happy holiday!” I love the people out there.

Parking Enforcement

After the school crossings I start on parking enforcement. It’s usually a little lighter in the morning, mostly the coffee crowd. The streets aren’t real full, so I go around seeing if cars have been parked overnight, checking some of the side streets. We do two-hour zones on the side streets closer to the business district. We don’t hit every street. It’s random. I have a pad. I mark down the times. I have a technique I use to keep track of how long cars have been there. As the day goes on it gets more crowded. Parking is at a premium. People want to be there at the center of town in the middle of the day, and from that time forward it doesn’t slow down much. That’s why there’s a two-hour limit, to keep the turnaround going.

For longer term parking use the garages. We can’t hit every meter or monitor every street, but in all fairness we want to keep people moving so someone doesn’t get hunkered down all day long. We’ll take citizen complaints for people parking in private parking lots, and lots belonging to businesses around town. We try to keep loading zones clear so all those food service trucks can make their deliveries. You need to be a commercial vehicle to be in a loading zone — 30 minute limit, but we’ll give them a little more if they need it.

Every day you’ve got something different. Every day you’re meeting all kinds of people. They don’t like getting a $40 ticket for parking, and I don’t expect them to like it, but they’re understanding. The negatives are far and few between. People will usually say, “Yeah, I understand. You’re only doing your job.” I’m happy to hear people say that.

Writing Tickets

I give out about 25-30 tickets a day. The other day-shift officer does about the same. The evening shift officer gets busier. He writes more than us. And it’s all electronic. It’s wireless. I log in and set up my device in the morning. It replaces the old ticket books. People think I can take a ticket and throw it away, but if I’ve pushed the ticket button, I can’t. I have to walk up to the car. Here’s the plate number. There’s a button here that says ticket. It takes all of five seconds to write in the plate number. I look around, look at the car to make sure it doesn’t have a handicapped sticker or some sort of special permit, and if I decide the car is not exempt, then I hit the ticket button. And that’s it.

I have discretion whether I’m going to write that ticket. If I see somebody’s coming up to me with a baby in her hands, or with a toddler and they say “oh, no, I was held up by my child,” I’ll usually dismiss the ticket, and the courts don’t have a problem with that. After I hit the word “ticket” on my pad it goes to the state system and the court system. It’s too late to cancel when I have a ticket in the system. But the bulk of the tickets I give, I’m not around when the driver comes back to the car.

Our town is unique in that there’s a ten-minute grace period on the parking meters. It would be good if people knew more about this. But many people get fooled by this. They don’t realize that during the grace period the meter is counting up to ten and there’s a little digital negative mark in front of the zeros. I’ve never heard of this before in any other town.

We write more tickets in the summer. People want to be in this town. They come from all over the country. And tour buses, usually from New York City, want to drop off in places convenient for their passengers, so it keeps us busy trying to keep those buses moving. We give them a warning, but they’ll test us sometimes. Sometimes they’ll sit and wait. Then when we drive up they’ll drive off. It’s an issue we have to deal with because those buses are so big and take up so much space.

Very few times have I had to call the police and say, will you send an officer out here. Maybe for somebody who wasn’t happy about a ticket, just a little out of control, and it gets to the point where you try to explain and they just don’t want to hear it. I have a police radio, so I get right on the radio, but usually any problems are minor.

Smart Cards

I’ve never gotten a parking ticket myself, but yesterday I bought a smart card for my wife, so I’m not taking any chances. A lot of people who live in town don’t know about the smart card. Even if you’re only coming to Princeton infrequently it’s still worth it. There’s a minimum charge of $20. It doesn’t expire. It looks like a credit card, has a little gold chip on it like a credit card, and every meter in town will accept this card. It gives a 10 percent discount — for $20 you get $22 worth of parking. You can refill it at the clerk’s office at Municipal Hall or in the Spring Street parking garage. It’s a good thing.

Paid parking in Princeton is a necessary inconvenience. So many people want to come here. If they didn’t have paid parking in Princeton, people couldn’t come into this town.

I love working with the police. Being retired I missed the camaraderie, but coming in here I get that back again. Everybody treats me like gold around here. They know who I am. They know my history. I feel at home here. I like Princeton. I like the guys. I have no plans to pack things up. I love what I’m doing, taking it one year at a time.