MAP: Stapleton is the 72-hour parking ticket capital of Denver

You can be ticketed if your car sits on a public street without moving for more than 72 hours. We look at where and why this happens most often.

The double Denver boot. (Dave Burdick/Denverite)

The 72-hour rule is a rite of passage for people moving to this city. It’s not widely advertised, but it’s certainly enforced: You can be ticketed if your car sits on a public street without moving at least 100 feet for more than 72 hours.

Over the course of a year, Denver’s enforcement agents issued about 1,900 of these tickets, each worth $25. City officials say this strategy prevents people from simply using crowded blocks as permanent parking. Sometimes an enforcer notices that a car hasn’t moved recently and marks its tires. Occasionally, neighbors use the law to annoy the crap out of each other.

Either way, it’s a fact of life in Denver — and we thought we’d see where parking justice gets delivered most often. Should your block fear the reaper?

First, we put every 72-hour ticket on a map.

Nothing too amazing when you’re zoomed out — just a big blob of driver frustration.

If you zoom in and explore, though, you can see whether your block is a hot spot, and find some patterns. Unsurprisingly, the tightly packed residential roads around Capitol Hill and Highland see heavy enforcement.

There also are little clusters of activity in outlying areas, including in Montbello and Green Valley Ranch.

In the spirit of competition, we decided to compare the neighborhoods.

I expected the neighborhoods around Capitol Hill to dominate, but the highest numbers of tickets were in Stapleton, with 161, and Montbello, where 104 were written between August 2016 and July 2017.

Heather Burke-Bellile, a spokesperson for Denver Public Works, said certain neighborhoods are extra vigilant about cars that stick around on the street.

“As far as Stapleton and Green Valley Ranch, a lot of residents in those neighborhoods call us to enforce the 72-hour rule when they notice a vehicle parked in the same spot on their block for more than a few days,” Burke-Bellile wrote in an email.

However, this is not just a case of nosy neighbors.

Nearly half of Stapleton’s tickets were reported along East 37th Avenue, an industrial corridor far from the area’s residences.

Gary Smith, general manager of Jonas Brothers Taxidermy on 37th, had a theory.

“It’s right across the street from the Denver County Jail,” he said. Could people be leaving their cars and reporting to jail? I asked Holly Shrewsbury, the interim spokeswoman for the Denver Sheriff’s Department.

“No one can really figure it out,” she said. Supervisors at the jail couldn’t recall anyone getting a parking ticket while incarcerated, she said.

There’s also the fact that the A Line’s Peoria Station is nearby. Maybe people are trying to dodge parking fees on their way to the airport? Some things we may never know, but at least there’s this: You probably shouldn’t leave your car on East 37th Avenue.

The life of a parking agent:

We couldn’t get an interview with an enforcement agent, but the Department of Public Works did tell us that they are on patrol 24 hours a day on weekdays enforcing the various parking laws. They’re trained in de-escalation so that they can handle the inevitable angry and confrontational people they encounter.

Occasionally, they get to do something everyone appreciates. In one recent case, two agents saved a choking man, according to Burke-Bellile. In another, they identified a possibly stolen vehicle for police.

And if you’re lucky enough to meet the agent as they write the ticket, a little bit of respect might go a long way: They’re trained to try to teach you about parking violations rather than writing tickets, according to the city.

If you’ve had an interesting experience with a parking ticket, feel free to email me.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.