Thursday, August 7, 2008

Beware of PEP.

Parks Enforcement Patrol, that is. Sources inform me that no fewer than six people got tickets last Sunday morning in Fort Washington Park, for having their dogs offleash after 9am. It would seem PEP is cracking down. The dog beach is an area where they will often cruise by around Nine-ish, in their new white and green Honda Civics, looking for people who don't get their dogs back on the leash immediately. The fine is stiff, the officers are sometimes less than pleasant (that can be a serious understatement at times), and it's no way to end a lovely morning. It's best to keep an eye on your timepiece.

Ironically enough, you're probably in more danger of a ticket between 9-10am than you are in the afternoon and early evening, when PEP isn't actively hunting for leash law offenders. Offleash hours are intended, in part, to encourage people who want to exercise their dogs to show up in the early morning, when there are fewer people around. I'd assume this is the Parks Department's way of letting us know they're serious about holding the line. And fair enough, though nobody should be given a ticket immediately after 9am--it's easy to lose track of the time when you're having fun. Before 9:15am, they should be giving warnings, not tickets--and sometimes they do. And sometimes they don't.

What's more than a bit irritating about this is not that they're enforcing the leash laws, but that they often seem unaware there are any other laws to be enforced, at least as far as Fort Washington Park is concerned.

At any public meeting related to parks, and certainly Fort Washington Park, people rarely if ever complain about offleash dogs--they complain about speeding bicycles, and piles of trash left by weekend picnickers. I've never heard of a bike rider being ticketed for speeding, or going down the 158th Street ramp without dismounting, both of which happen scores of times every day. I've never heard of picnickers being ticketed for leaving a pile of trash behind them, which is a lamentably regular occurrence in the summer. It must happen sometimes--right? We'd sure like to think so. But it certainly does seem at times that dog walkers get specifically targeted, because we make such easy targets.

If you're going too fast on your bicycle, you can slown down if you see a PEP vehicle--there are no speed traps in Fort Washington Park (and there ought to be). If the PEP officer doesn't have radar, they can't prove someone was speeding, no matter how obvious it may be. If you just left a pile of trash on the ground, you can say it isn't yours--not like it has your name on it. But if they see you with your dog offleash after 9am, that's it. You're not going to pretend that isn't your dog. Well, it's probably happened, but you wouldn't do that. And he probably does have your name on his ID tag--contact information, anyway.

They may have been told to crack down on us, or they may have a certain number of summonses they are supposed to issue in a given period of time. Or both. It sucks, but it's part of the reality of having a dog in the city. Some people who have their dogs offleash all the time will never get a ticket. Other people who let their dogs off for five minutes after 9am will end up paying a fine. Timing is everything. Life is not fair. But the law is the law.

But could we just ask--how about letting the law be the law for everybody. Not just for people with dogs. The purpose of all these annoying but sometimes necessary rules is to make the parks safer and more enjoyable for everyone. Not to generate revenue for the city. This isn't some podunk rural town that gets a big chunk of its money from speed traps. But speaking of speed traps, if the city really needs some quick cash--

I'm just saying.

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