Mall Cops Flop As Parking Meter Patrol

Rent-a-cops blamed for parking meter mess

Don't blame Mayor Daley for the parking meter mess.

And don't blame the newfangled Chicago Parking Meters LLC.

It's not their fault.

Blame the mall cops.

That's what officials are doing.

"LAZ Parking, a company that does business in 16 states and brings in more than $200 million annually, was poorly prepared to take over Chicago's parking meters when the handoff from the city took place Feb. 13, the firm acknowledges," the Tribune reported this week.

"It relied heavily on mall security guards and workers from a temporary job-placement agency - all with no experience in the parking industry - to reprogram the city's approximately 36,000 meters and change over the decals that provide drivers with rates and rules, company officials said."

If only LAZ could have found veterans of the parking meter industry to fill out its workforce. Like maybe those city workers who have been doing it forever! 

But is parking meter enforcement really more difficult than shopping mall security work? Seems like shoplifters and health scares and roaming bands of obnoxious - and possibly armed - teenagers poses more challenges than checking to see if a meter's time has run out.

That's not to disparage parking meter work, it's just to say that the vast, vast, vast majority of problems with the meters seems to be the fault of management - city officials who failed to study, anticipate, and oversee the changeover - not the workers.

For example:

"LAZ found that many of the city's meters were inoperable because the 9-volt batteries that power the meters were dead, company officials said. But LAZ did not have an inventory of batteries to solve the problem," the Tribune report said.

"One day, I saw a supervisor hand a guy $20, and he told him to go to Home Depot to buy some batteries," a worker told the paper. "You pay the city over $1 billion for the parking meter concession and you're buying batteries in $20 batches?"

That's almost as crazy as a City Council approving a billion-dollar parking meter concession in a matter of days without reading the contract.

Mall cops are too well-trained to have ever pulled a reckless stunt like that.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter. He really wouldn't mind being a mall cop if the job came with health insurance.

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