Union Bridge, a burg of 966 people -- the "prettiest little town in Maryland" according to one of our colleagues -- doesn't have a police department. It does, however, have the Denver Boot.
The town recently paid $400 for the boot, the ominous clamping device commonly seen in the big cities with which police immobilize automobiles until their owners settle overdue parking fines.
Hey, Union Bridge, what happened to "Keep it country"?
The town fathers would like to, but they can't afford to keep getting burned on parking fine revenues, says Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr.
With the state Motor Vehicle Administration having switched to 24-month registrations and staggering them throughout the year, Union Bridge officials rightly conclude that it will take the state longer to block the registration renewals of licensees with outstanding violations. Municipalities will have one less deterrent corral flagrant parking violators, so Union Bridge officials had to devise another method for enforcement -- without much manpower to do it. Enter the boot.
The apparatus gives Union Bridge a foot up on much larger towns. Annapolis, for instance,doesn't employ the boot (although it does have a corps of some of the most dedicated meter maids you'll ever meet.)
Westminster has used three boots for several years now and figures Union Bridge will be pleased with its new acquisition, being that Westminster rarely has anyone run up overdue parking fines beyond $500.
In Union Bridge, one scofflaw has run up $1,800 in unpaid tickets, which is quite a feat when you consider the parking fine is a buck (plus $5 every month the ticket goes unpaid).
You'd think people would be happy to feed the meters in Union Bridge, at the bargain rate of a nickel an hour. The boot is stored at Town Hall awaiting use by a state trooper who covers the town. Union Bridge has a meter maid and a councilman who oversees law-enforcement matters, but no police force to oversee.
Talk about lawlessness in our society, the breakdown of civility! We just didn't think it would come to this -- the Denver boot in Union Bridge. From now on, fugitive parkers can take comfort only if they see the town's lone boot fastened to another car. Then, they're free to run another day.