There are many roads to Mecca, the ancient saying goes.
Seeking out and sustaining a safe and orderly community is not accomplished by using only one method or process, a principle well understood by those experienced in the enforcement side of the legal profession. I say “experienced” because new recruits are often not trained in some of the more subtle aspects of keeping an orderly society. This requires street experience and a willingness to think and act outside the box on occasion.
I have an example, of course.
“John” (his real name is close to that but of East Indian origin) was a hard working, conscientious bylaw enforcement officer. They were also locally known as “Green Hornets.” He had been given a rather hard nut to crack and asked for help to find a solution.
He walked an area in the city known for its used car lots. There were no fewer than eight in his particular beat. Although his job mainly involved tagging cars on the street, the city was receiving many complaints of used car lots blocking sidewalks with their vehicles and parking them on the streets when their lots were full.
John’s problem – the cars didn’t have license plates so he couldn’t issue tags. He had been constantly talking to the sales staff and owners, asking them to move their vehicles, but was met with considerable derision and low compliance. The situation had deteriorated to the point where he was encountering abusive language and had even been ordered off the property a few times.
It was time for an appropriate object lesson in civic responsibility.
The following morning I picked up John from his station and our morning cup of joe from the usual place and talked strategy. He had to be seen giving the orders for the day, I told him, directing not only the tow truck drivers but also myself. He was taken aback. I reassured him that this was necessary to establish himself as the authority in the area.
A quick drive by established that every lot had numerous vehicles obstructing sidewalks. Armed with a briefcase full of impound report forms, I ordered up three tow trucks and, while waiting for them to arrive, divided up the forms between us. When the trucks were lined up I advised John to approach the lot owner on foot.
As expected, he received a considerable amount of invective and he turned away and simply waved at me. I was parked a short distance down the road and arrived quickly with two tow trucks, which immediately backed up over the sidewalk and hooked two vehicles.
The lot owner and a salesman ran out, complaining wildly. I simply looked up at them as I was writing out my impound report and pointed to the bylaw officer. He was busy filling out his own impound report and simply advised that he had warned them this day was coming. The vehicles were currently in the custody of the tow truck drivers, he explained, and they would have to negotiate with them.
What followed was a circus of running to the office for cash to pay the drivers their “drop fee.” As we had planned, John then directed them to hook onto another car. It didn’t take long for the owner to realize that he had better direct his staff to quickly grab the keys and move the cars. In the mean time I ordered my reserve tow truck to hook another car. He pulled it onto the street, with a salesman in hot pursuit, yelling loudly to get the driver’s attention. Too late! It was off to the vehicle impound yard... where the fees would be considerably higher.
We repeated this procedure at another lot further down the street and the word spread fast. For the first time in memory we could look down the street and see the sidewalks on both sides clear of vehicles.
A quick follow-up the next day revealed almost 100 per cent compliance. One week later John came in to my office and advised that he had gained new respect from the lot owners.
“They actually call me sir!” he said with pride.