Overzealous parking enforcement leads to citation

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

An Aspen property manager was cited last week for criminal tampering after business owners complained about his use of bright orange, hard-to-remove warning stickers on cars without the proper parking placards.

“I was stunned, as are many of my peers,” said Jeff Watkins, who manages the building at 225 N. Mill St. and received the ticket. “I really don’t (sticker cars) much. I try to avoid it for just this reason.”

A woman who works in the building called police Thursday to report that she parked in her designated spot and walked out later to find the bright orange sticker on it, according to a police report. However, the woman admitted she didn’t have her parking placard displayed in the car because she’d been in a car accident the day before and it was in that second car, the report states.

The woman told the police officer she couldn’t remove the sticker, which “caused her an extreme amount of annoyance and inconvenience,” according to the police report. The woman also said that another woman she works with also had a sticker put on her car after she was parked in her designated spot.

That woman later told police that Watkins “consistently places these stickers on her patients’ windows” and that a “90-year-old patient came in crying” after finding one of the stickers on his car recently, the report states.

“She said these stickers cause all her patients annoyance and that Watkins does this ‘on a daily basis,’” according to the police report.

Phone messages left Monday for the two women were not returned.

Aspen police Officer Ian Macayeal told Watkins that “purposefully placing the sticker in the direct line of the driver’s left side vision is dangerous,” and that the same result could be achieved by putting the sticker between the glass and the door or under the windshield wiper, the report states.

Watkins said Monday that he hadn’t used the stickers in months before last week, and he isn’t targeting anyone’s vehicle in particular. In fact, the two women who complained to police asked him to step up enforcement of the building’s parking rules about two months ago, he said.

Further, Watkins said he thought he was doing people a favor by applying the stickers.

“If I put a warning sticker on it, the Boot Man passes them by,” he said. “I thought the stickers were a kinder, gentler way to do it.”

The Boot Man is a reference to Britt Queer, Aspen’s longtime private parking-lot enforcement officer who clamps boots on illegally parked cars that immobilize them, frequently causing owners to see red.

Watkins said he will remove the orange stickers with a razor blade for people, though that did not happen Thursday because the woman “called up the city screaming.”

However, the citation from the officer — which accuses him of intentionally causing annoyance — means he’s done enforcing parking rules, Watkins said.

“Going forward, I won’t do any more stickering, and I’ll let the Boot Man do his thing,” he said. “I’m definitely out of the parking enforcement game.”