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Albany County cracks down on parking scofflaws

Albany County authorities have netted 27 summonses as part of a two-day screen aimed at stopping drivers who illegally park in handicap parking spots.

For the most part, the infractions go unchecked, admit authorities. Most summonses come by way police cruisers reporting to other calls who come across drivers who ignore the signs.

Project Access, which the two-day screen is called, is launched four times a year and in most cases lands more tickets than local and county police agencies would like.

The screen was conducted on Wednesday, May 23, and Thursday, May 24.

Of the 27 summons, we've written a lot more. We are pleased. Twenty-seven is still a number we would like to get lower, but hopefully education and enforcement will have an impact, said Albany County Sheriff James Campbell.

The last Project Access in December resulted in at least three times the number of summonses, he said. City of Albany police, who issued seven summonses over the course of the most recent screen, issued 60 in December. Typically the results of the screen always see more infractions in Colonie, Bethlehem and among private security agencies of local malls.

Colonie and Bethlehem police issued eight summons, accounting for more than half of the tickets issued in the May sting.

Campbell attributes the tickets to the municipalities' size and the number of malls and strip malls in the two towns, where most infractions take place.

"There were two guys out there for four hours driving through strip malls and malls," said Colonie Police Traffic Safety Division Commander, Lt. Ken Pero.

The Colonie police force doesn't have the manpower to dedicate to patrolling mall parking lots, he said. To keep an eye on the more than 80 square miles of the town, officers typically avoid the parking lots unless they are called to them. Calls for cars illegally parked in handicap spots are few and far between, he said.

"The main thing is the volume of calls they response to. It cuts down on any proactive work they can do," said Pero.

Most of the time his officers stumble across the violators.

May's screen netted $3,840 in fines to be paid out to city of Albany, Bethlehem, Colonie and Menands police and one for a ticket issued at Crossgates Mall. Since the program went into effect in 1994, more than 33 screens have been conducted resulting in 1,490 summonses and more than $138,830 in fines.

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