Miranda Alam/Special to The Sunday
Thursday, April 11, 2019 | 2 a.m.
A few abandoned cars make big difference in a neighborhood, says North Las Vegas Parking Services Manager Serafin Calvo.
Calvo is leading the city’s first parking department, which launched its parking enforcement efforts Feb. 4. The new department was formed after the city struggled for many years with abandoned cars that contributed to neighborhood blight.
Since going live two months ago, the division has recovered and impounded 77 unwanted or abandoned vehicles. Calvo’s six-person team has also issued 2,303 parking citations and resolved 1,008 out of 1,076 complaints sent in from residents about parking and vehicle concerns as of April 9.
“This was a service that the city definitely needed for residents,” Calvo said.
Parking enforcement in North Las Vegas was an issue long left to the police department. But the department, stretched thin as the city’s financial woes forced it to lay off staff across the board, typically prioritized more pressing crimes than parked vehicles.
That was ultimately hurting neighborhood character and losing the city money, City Manager Ryann Juden said.
“When you look at the list of traffic accidents or other things that have somehow resulted in city property being damaged, it’s a double whammy, because we have to pay for it to be fixed,” Juden said.
While Calvo said the new department is designed to serve residents, not bankrupt them, he expects the program will soon pay for itself through parking tickets. Even though parking enforcement is still a new concept, residents have been paying their fines, he said. Many are taking advantage of the recently launched online payment system.
“It should be self-sustaining once it gets off the ground and has a little bit of time,” he said.
In addition to creating a parking services department, the city has made another significant change when it comes to parking enforcement: Parking violations are no longer criminal offenses, but civil penalties. Tickets and parking disputes are now resolved at City Hall, rather than through the local courts system.
“We wanted the consequence to fit the crime,” said Delen Goldberg, Public Information Officer for the city. “The goal wasn’t to create criminal records for people.”
A former longtime employee of the City of Las Vegas’ Parking Services Division, Calvo is used to parking enforcement being one of the most hated municipal services. But in North Las Vegas, most residents are pleased to see that abandoned or illegally stored vehicles are finally being taken care of.
“We’ve received so much positive feedback from residents when we go out and tow an abandoned vehicle,” Calvo said. “That’s the part that’s been a pleasant surprise.”
As the city continues to try to revitalize itself seven years after its near financial collapse, officials agree that keeping streets clear of unwanted and hazardous vehicles and uniformly enforcing its rules are integral parts of turning North Las Vegas around.
“It’s incredible to see the change in the neighborhoods, one vehicle at a time,” Calvo said. “Getting rid of one vehicle, two vehicles from a street, you’re raising the bar of what’s acceptable or what’s not in a community.”