Ticket to write

Ed Nelson

Photo By Tom Angel

He’s big and tall and drives a police car. Ed Nelson doesn’t look like a parking meter reader. However, his job as a community services officer with the Chico Police Department requires that one day a week he write tickets for cars parked at expired meters. The rest of the time he tows away cars that are eyesores or unregistered or both. Before this, Nelson worked in home health care for six years. He says he’s happy with his job now, because he believes it’s where he’s supposed to be.

What’s your job description?

My primary responsibility is vehicle abatement—towing the old junker cars around Chico. If the registration is more than six months expired, it’s towable.

How do you know which cars to tow?

I check the license plates through the DMV and then have the dispatchers notify the tow truck.

Do people ever get angry at you?

Emotions run very high. I’m taking away a possession of theirs. It feels very personal to them, I’m sure. I explain the violation.

When you impound a vehicle, do you leave something explaining what happened?

I can’t leave a Post-it note on the meter saying, “Your car is gone.” The first people they call are the police dispatchers, who can tell them what happened.

How many cars do you tow?

Since January I’ve towed about 260 cars.

Have you ever given a ticket to a local celebrity or politician?

I mistakenly left a ticket on a councilmember’s car. I retracted the ticket before anyone found out. It was for parking in a residential area, and there was a permit on the dash. A neighbor came out and said, “Hey, don’t you see that permit?”

When do you give out the most tickets?

Lunch time is a very busy time. There are a lot of tickets to be had at lunch.

What’s the craziest thing anyone has ever done to get out of a ticket?

A lot of people just try to apologize their way out of a ticket. They will offer to put the money in after the ticket has been written. It’s too late.

What’s the largest ticket you’ve written?

People parking in a disabled parking space get $280. You want to stay out of those spaces.

Is there a way to get around paying in the meters?

On the old meters, you could shave down a penny and you would get a dime’s worth of time. That doesn’t work on the new meters.

Do you know that from personal experience?

(Laughs.) So I’ve been told, so I’ve been told.