Houston Expands Duties of Parking Enforcement Officers

The City of Houston has expanded the duties of its Parking Enforcement Officers, those friendly folks who walk around downtown writing parking tickets. They're now Houston's "Downtown Ambassadors." Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell explains.

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Don't call them meter-maids anymore. Writing parking tickets is now just one sentence in a new and longer job description. Parking Enforcement Assistant Director Liliana Rambo says they're now walking city's customer service reps.

"Parking Enforcement Officers are our daily link to customers. They see and they talk to citizens and residents and visitors every single day. We felt that they needed to be better equipped, and we wanted to give them additional resources to be able to answer the questions that they encounter day in and day out"

Rambo says at any given time, hundreds, even thousands of downtown visitors and newcomers need information and directions, and PEOs are walking libraries of information. They can answer questions about the city and its history, provide information and directions to downtown theaters, hotels, restaurants, and current happenings, but that's only part of their new job.

PEOs are now trained to provide crowd and minor traffic control for police officers when needed, and to respond to health emergencies with CPR and the ability to use Automated External Defibrillators. Rambo says PEOs are in position to be the first responder in many kinds of emergencies and situations.

"They will be the ones that probably witness an accident, a minor accident happen. They will be the ones that notice that there's a traffic light that is not functioning, and they'll be able to serve as traffic management until a police department response gets to the scene."

And of course all these new duties call for significantly more training than parking meter attendants once got, and they're getting it from the police department, which is already training its second class of PEOs.

"The training is calling for two weeks, it's an 80 hour training course, that is being offered at the Houston Police Department Academy. The first group just went through three weeks ago, and this is the second group to be going through the training."

So the city's new and improved Parking Enforcement Officers are already on downtown streets helping people, and, oh yes, lest we forget, still writing parking tickets. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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