ALBUQERQUE (KRQE) — It’s happened to the best of us. You get back to your car to find a parking ticket. One Albuquerque man is trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. Yet, you might be surprised to learn what happened when city officials saw him trying to help.
He may look tough, but Steven Gomez is a softie at heart.
“The highlights of my week are playing hide and seek with my granddaughter and having a tea party,” said Gomez.
He does a lot of business downtown.
“Property taxes. Of course, my utilities every month,” Gomez explain.
Gomez doesn’t hesitate to help when he sees someone in need.
“I usually give change to homeless people,” said Gomez.
Yet, more recently, he’s been feeding parking meters for drivers who have run out of time.
“You don’t always get out of there on time and I thought it was something nice to do, pay it forward,” explained Gomez.
He says he was inspired after crossing paths with a woman upset over a citation.
“I felt bad for that young lady. I mean, obviously, she was just there paying her utilities,” said Gomez.
But Gomez has been more discreet after a recent brush with parking enforcement.
“I had an officer tell me it was against the law, that I could be cited,” Gomez said.
He was shocked.
“If you’re trying to help somebody, I don’t understand how it’s against the law,” said Gomez. “I don’t see the harm in it.”
City parking officials said it is against the law to feed other people’s meters and said there are good reasons why.
“I don’t think they fully recognize that it could cause some consequences further down the road,” said Albuquerque Parking and Security Division Manager Mark Shepherd.
Shepherd said he appreciates what Gomez is trying to do, but said those drivers are still subject to fines.
“If my staff saw them feeding the meter and knew that car was at the end of its time limit, they could still receive a citation,” explained Shepherd.
What’s more, Shepherd said buying time for others could hurt local businesses.
“Because they don’t have those customers able to pull up and find a convenient place to park and go in and patronize their shops,” said Shepherd.
As for Gomez, you may or may not find him downtown feeding meters.
“Ten cars, seven of them are expired. That’d be one heck of a crime spree,” exclaimed Gomez.
The time limit for a meter depends on its location. Spots near the university are often shorter than ones downtown. Shepherd said that’s because business owners near UNM asked for shorter limits so they could see more turnover.