While driving in downtown Fort Dodge, people might notice vehicles immobilized with an orange "boot" on one of their tires.
The Denver boot, as it's known, is a tool local police use to help enforce downtown parking rules.
Recently, a vehicle parked on Central Avenue bore a boot after its out-of-state owner racked up five parking tickets - all of which were unpaid.
-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
A sport utility vehicle parked on South Eighth Street near Central Avenue Wednesday is restrained by a boot placed on it by Fort Dodge police.
This system, which has been in place for the approximately two years since the city revamped its downtown parking, is only used after multiple attempts to contact the owner have been unsuccessful, according to Police Chief Tim Carmody.
"You get a letter when you get a ticket, but you also get another letter when you have five or more tickets past due," Carmody said. "If you have a vehicle that doesn't have a local address or license plate, it makes the notification process more difficult."
In the case of the recent vehicle on Central, Carmody said it was towed after the owner could not be contacted.
"Those letters make it pretty clear if you have over five tickets, your vehicle will be towed if it's found on the street," Carmody said.
The Denver boot is just one way the Fort Dodge Police Department helps enforce downtown parking rules.
Two parking technicians read meters, looking for ones that have expired.
"They go around and they will look for violations downtown in both metered and non-metered spaces," Carmody said. "They also go around and help people use the meters properly."
Vehicles still parked at a meter after it expires are ticketed. The accompanying fine is $15 for a general parking violation and $50 for a snow route violation.
Carmody said the department's goal is to make people aware of the time limits so they don't receive fines.
"We never, ever, ever want to have to write a citation," he said. "If we don't have to, that means everybody's following the rules. But we know that's not the case because we're still writing citations."
Anyone who gets a ticket has to pay it within 30 days at the city clerk's office, which will also notify someone if they not only have a ticket, but if it's past due.
Assistant Police Chief Kevin Doty said violators who don't pay in the allotted time period can face a more serious fine.
"If it goes past due, then we can ask for a warrant which ups the amount of the fine," Doty said.
Multiple unpaid fines means, Doty said, "you're subjecting yourself to other possibilities if you fail to take care of the fines."
Two years ago, the FDPD took part in an overhaul of the downtown parking system. The use of parking meters and time-limited parking zones was intended to help local businesses.
"People who work at downtown businesses would park in front of the business and there was no place for the customers to park," Carmody said. "It was decided to drive long-term parking to the parking lots and reserve the on-street parking for customers."
The information on where to park can be found on the city's website at fortdodgeiowa.org.
"We want to make everything accessible," Carmody said. "We would much rather use a corrective measure by talking to people instead of issuing a $15 ticket."