09/04/2012 05:34 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2012

All For a Parking Spot!

I thought I had seen it all. After teaching adolescents for over 20 years, my "cheat radar" was finely tuned. Having been away from the classroom for a few years I thought I had lost some of it, but I realized that I still had it in me. My new specialty is parking fraud. Perhaps I enjoy an unfair advantage in observing illegal parking because I live adjacent to a commercial area where the creative techniques used to park cars is amazing.

We live in the City of Beverly Hills, which is a blend of residential and commercial areas in 5.7 square miles. To ensure a quality of life for residents, the city instituted preferential parking zones. Residents may purchase three permits on an annual basis that allow them, and/or their guests to park in the street adjacent to their homes -- during the day (not at night when all cars must be off the street between 2:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.).

The city is made up of numerous parking zones and each one has specific time/day regulations. Our own block is precedent setting, as it has split regulations due to the proximity of the northern half of the block to commercial space. One half of the block has signage indicating "no parking anytime without a permit," and the other half has parking permitted at night and on Sundays. There are also numerous city-owned parking lots, meters and private lots scattered around the city.

The Beverly Hills parking enforcement officers are eagle-eyed and circulate around the city in a variety of marked vehicles. They have smart cars, bicycles, Priuses and other vehicles and they do an admirable job trying to control an overwhelming issue -- illegal parking.

There are parking lots and meters where one can legally park when one wishes to shop or eat in the commercial areas adjacent to our home. Some people prefer to use a variety of techniques to get around paying for parking when they get a haircut, mani/pedi or something to eat. Some of the techniques that people use to park in our preferential zone are primitive, while others are quite sophisticated.

The preferential zone sticker is applied to one side of the permit that hangs from the rear-view mirror. Our street is designated a "C" zone. People from other zones hang the permit inside out so that the parking officer cannot determine the zone. Others hang an assortment of talismans or ornaments from the rear-view mirror that approximate a permit or block the permit designation.

Still others have devised a system for avoiding tickets by reusing a previously issued ticket. Instead of returning the citation in the envelope the city provides along with payment, they keep the ticket and each time they wish to park, they place the ticket under the windshield wiper. When the parking enforcement officer passes he observes a ticket and doesn't stop to see if it is current. When the city does not receive payment for a citation in a timely manner, they mail out a notice to the registered owner of the car. Using this technique, one ticket can provide an individual with many days of parking.

Sometimes we observe a group of service vans (e.g. telecom or utilities) lined up on our street. Is there a major issue? No, it is lunchtime and they are all meeting up for a bite on Beverly Drive. Orange cones surround their vehicles while they go for coffee or meal breaks. Orange cones work for individual service provider's vans as well.

The grand prize for parking fraud has to go to the individual who lives in another parking zone and has figured out a clever, but illegal way to park on our street and go to work on Beverly Drive. To secure street parking for a guest who comes to visit, a resident may call a designated number to arrange for a one day parking pass for that guest. During the call, the resident must confirm his name, address and give the make and model number of the car for which the permit is sought. The clerk will check that the resident has purchased the three preferential parking permits (at a cost of over $100). Then a five-digit code is issued for that car consisting of two letters and three numbers. The resident then prints the code on a sheet of 8 1/2" x 11" white paper and places it in the guest's car's driver's side dashboard so that the guest may park on the street during his visit.

The Grand Prizewinner is an individual who lives many blocks away in another parking zone. On a daily basis he calls for guest parking and each day receives a code that he places on his own car's dashboard. He then drives to our block and leaves his car on our street while he works all day in a business on Beverly Drive, the adjacent commercial area. Parking enforcement officers pass by and see a "legal" daily permit in his car. Everything seemed okay for a while, but the catchy vanity plate was his undoing -- too noticeable and when investigated, the ruse was discovered.

All for a parking spot!