A day in the life of a UCCS parking enforcement officer

Every time I see a parking enforcement vehicle near my car, my heart skips a beat. I’ve always been diligent about getting the correct parking pass, but I can’t help but feel like I’ve just been ticketed whenever I see one of those yellow vests.

On Jan. 5, I rode along with two parking enforcement officers to learn what their job looks like to ease my mind.

7:45 AM – Set out for the day

I met with student PEOs Cui Cervantes and Kai Dillon in front of the Parking and Transportation Center. They showed me to their vehicle. Dillon got in the driver’s seat, and Cervantes got in the passenger seat where he was able to operate the tablet in the car that displayed the License Plate Recognition system.

7:55 AM – Lot 230

We headed for our first lot, Lot 230. Upon entering the lot, Cervantes manually told the system what zone we were in. As we drove past each car, the cameras on either side of the car scanned the license plate.

After scanning, license plate numbers get run through the LPR to identify if the plate has the correct permit for the zone. If no permit is found, or the license plate has the wrong permit for the zone or day, the system beeps and the officers know to issue a citation for that vehicle.

Along with the tablet, each officer has a handheld device from which they can print out citations. They also take several pictures of each car they give citations to for reference if the citation goes through an appeal.

There were a lot of citations issued in Lot 230. Dillon attributed this to students living in the dorms using the lot, despite resident parking passes not covering the lot.

Cervantes and Dillon have never gotten citations themselves. “We strive to set the example,” Cervantes said.

8:10 a.m. – Gateway Garage

After scanning all the cars in Lot 230, we went to Gateway Garage. In this garage, Cervantes and Dillon recognized a car that they had given tickets to before, noting they often recognize the vehicles of repeat offenders.

“For the most part, people just make a mistake, and then when they get a ticket, they don’t do it again. But there are those people who pick up a couple hundred dollars in citations a semester,” Dillon said.

8:20 a.m. – Boot Call

A voice came over the radio requesting for Dillon and Cervantes to remove a boot from a car in Alpine Garage. They dropped everything they were doing to remove the boot.

Vehicles on campus that have more than $150 in unpaid parking tickets get issued a warning. If the tickets aren’t paid after three days, that vehicle is subject to be booted. If a car is booted, the boot is not removed until the citations are paid off.

8:30 a.m. – Back to Gateway Garage

After removing the boot, we returned to Gateway Garage. Cervantes said that on top of issuing citations, officers also serve as “the campus’ eyes and ears.” If they see any suspicious activity such as accidents or abandoned vehicles, they dispatch radio.

8:45 a.m. – Lot 224 and 222

When we entered Lot 224, Dillon started playing music. The shifts can be long and repetitive, so Dillon and Cervantes said they usually talk or play music to pass the time. “Preferably Bad Bunny,” Cervantes said.

At around 9:00 a.m., a car pulled up next to us and rolled down its window. The driver asked where visitors could park. After Dillon informed him that there was visitor parking available in Gateway Garage or in Lot 220, the driver groaned. “I’m already late,” he said before speeding off.

Dillon and Cervantes said they occasionally have negative encounters while on the job. “If people are unhappy and having a bad day on top of that, sometimes it compounds, and we’re the people they take it out on,” Dillon said.

At around 9:15 a.m., two separate vehicles almost backed into us. Dillon and Cervantes said that the day before my ride-along, the other parking enforcement vehicle got backed into. “Something to know about this job: be prepared to almost be hit,” Dillon said.

9:25 a.m. – Lot 100

When we got to Lot 100, Cervantes noticed a car that had a plastic skeleton in the passenger seat. Dillon and Cervantes said they see a lot of fun bumper stickers and car adornments as a part of their job.

“Lots of cowboy hats,” said Dillon. Cervantes said his favorite bumper sticker he has seen is one that said “Bestie, please let me merge.”

9:45 a.m. – Back to Gateway Garage

After going through all the lots on campus, Dillon and Cervantes dropped me off at Gateway Garage and left to finish the rest of their shift.

After riding with two officers, I can confidently say I am no longer afraid of them. It can be a bummer to find a ticket on your windshield, but at the end of the day, they are just doing their job and helping make UCCS a safer place.

The UCCS Alpine parking garage near Alpine Village. Photo by Megan Moen.