UA cracks down on meter-beating crime

By Kimberly Miller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A meeting of the minds occurred yesterday to once again attempt to find a solution to the ongoing saga of UA athletes versus the parking meters.

Assistant University of Arizona Police Chief Harry Hueston, Athletics Director Jim Livengood and Director of Parking and Transportation Marlis Davis, came together to discuss what could be done about the meter-beating problem. Meter beating is defined as obtaining illegal time on a meter by striking it or placing foreign items in its coin slot.

UA athletes have become infamous as the perpetrators of this crime although Livengood said student athletes simply stick out more because of their high profile status.

"I believe it is a problem, but I think it's a problem all over," Livengood said. "We've talked to everyone and they all realize it's something we don't condone. I think with everyone working together things are going to get better."

Over the years many athletes have been arrested and charged with theft under $250 for the crime of meter beating. UAPD Sgt. Salvatore Celi said meter beating has been a consistent problem in the last two years and most of the reports are from areas near McKale Center.

"Every once in a while we'll get a call from another area of campus, but the majority of the crimes occur at meters west of the baseball field and south of McKale Center," Celi said. And Hueston said he called the meeting because the predominance of the meter crimes are centralized around the athletic department.

This semester alone, three football players and one basketball player have been arrested and recently a 23-year-old football player was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after threatening a parking and transportation employee attempting to give him a ticket.

But Hueston said he believes problems like this will soon be ending because of a pro-active approach being taken by UAPD, parking and transportation and Athletic Department. He said his concerns center around the time it takes to deal with meter related crimes.

"What we're concerned about is that this is taking up our valuable resources," Hueston said. "If we have to go down there and defuse a situation, especially if someone gets confrontational, its not only our time, its the court's time and

the whole criminal justice system," Hueston said.

One thing that has been done to help curb "meter-beater" crimes is the purchase of 26 new computerized tamper-proof parking meters strategically placed in front of McKale Center. The $400 digital meters were installed in March and Davis said she has noticed an absence of people parking at the new meters.

"I don't know why no one is using these meters," Davis said. "But I have noticed a lot of empty spaces there now when before there was never an empty spot."

Davis said the parking and transportation department will be slowly replacing all of the old meters as the budget allows. She said although the meters are fairly expensive they will pay for themselves in the long run and are more user friendly.

"They're a little more expensive but they're state-of-the-art equipment that are completely digital and computerized," Davis said. "They're also better for the people using them because if you put money in one it says exactly that you have 15 minutes while the arrow on the older ones was not as accurate."

Part of the problem, Hueston said, is that meter beatings are not considered serious.

"People might not think of this as a crime," Hueston said. "But you do get arrested for theft of services and that's a crime."

A theft-of-services crime is a class-one misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail or $2,500 worth of fines.

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