The jaws of injustice
August 31, 2011
Dear Editor: There is a robber on the loose in Aspen. He moves quickly, acts harshly, and will cost you dearly. And the worst part about it? He will rob you point blank, at the most inconvenient time, and in broad daylight. But instead of pointing a gun in your face and demanding all of your money, he will lock a boot to your car and stick a note on your windshield, demanding $100 in cash.
Try envisioning a positive experience that involves finding a boot locked to your wheel. That’s right, you can’t. The boot was designed to get your attention and to get your money. But with it comes an emotional toll, perhaps one of anger or humiliation. Regardless the reaction, it puts a veil of bondage over anyone that is stuck with it. Your car, or your lifeline, is immobile, enslaved by a greedy man with the only key to free your vehicle from servitude.
So how is this legal? Although some members of town have openly expressed their distaste for this car-jacking practice, these “Lone Bootmen” are somehow within their legal limits. This might come as a surprise, especially since these parking scams are all cash run businesses that appear to have little, if any, documentation. Still, since it is civilian property, they can rob you however they want. Perhaps we are lucky that they use boots, and not guns.
Aspen, like most cities, is divided into two types of parking lots, public and private. As you will see on the table below, there are some major discrepancies between the ways these two are managed. One is run efficiently and effectively, while the other is run like a bad game of Monopoly.
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• Warning tickets (with polite, informative message)
• Parking meters (accepts credit cards)
• Provides typed receipt (proof of purchase)
• $30 (maximum fine for one ticket)
• Five unpaid tickets = boot or tow
• Proof of time parked (on parking receipt)
• Public building that fields complaints/requests and occasionally rescinds parking tickets
• Poor signage (issuing vague warning)
• Cash only (no credit cards)
• Handwritten receipt (only upon request)
• $100 to 200 (for boot or tow)
• first offense = boot or ow
• Proof of time (dictated arbitrarily by bootmen)
• Office-less manager who would rather have you towed than listen to your complaint
So while this problem of highway robbery has been proposed, what kinds of solutions can we, the good, hardworking people of Aspen, think of that might put an end to this pocketbook assault? Should we plead to the property managers who practice this seemingly criminal behavior? Should we go to the polls and vote for some kind of restrictive policy that calls for better regulation of the Lone Bootmen? Or should we take matters into our own hands and purchase a set of $20 bolt cutters at Ace Hardware? After all, as long as it is not city property, cutting the boot off a private lot is considered a civil, not criminal, offense (according to the Aspen Police Department).
Regardless of what happens or doesn’t, the next time you decide to park in what seems like a safe place, think again. You might be putting yourself at the mercy of an oppressive boot-junky, lurking in the shadows, waiting to ensnare your wheels and hold your wallet hostage.