Service with a smile
After a just few weeks on the job, Nevada City community service officer Jack Ward already confiscated a skateboard, issued numerous warnings for downtown visitors to curb vehicle wheels and witnessed businesses beginning to solve parking concerns.
At first glance, it might look like a friendly, easy-going job, but Ward’s new downtown patrolling is designed to address key problems business owners and residents say have bedeviled the city in recent years.
“We were encouraged to be gentle and kind,” said Ward, who is one of the two officers the city hired to patrol the downtown.
Ward has worked as a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles and Orange County, Sacramento and on the island of St. Croix. Michael Hughes, a former Nevada County Sheriff’s deputy, also was hired.
Both patrol officers hired for the job have authority to issue citations for parking violations, loitering on sidewalks and numerous other city code violations as they see fit. City leaders expect greater enforcement of those laws will make the downtown more attractive for shoppers and improve business.
But issuing tickets is not the ultimate plan. Council members did not intend for the officers to be heavy handed, Ward said.
While out on patrol, he had opportunities to issue many citations to residents and visitors, but he decided not to do that in numerous instances.
A dog without a leash walking near its owner is an easy target for Ward. He tells the owner to leash the dog twice and then the woman disappears into a downtown Broad Street building. The dog’s owner tells Ward the dog was walking too swiftly for her to immediately catch and leash him.
Ward didn’t issue a ticket.
“I try to use empathy for the situation,” Ward said.
Numerous people parking downhill and uphill in the downtown received warnings for not curbing their wheels appropriately.
“It’s a friendly warning and I’ve already issued more than 100 of these,” Ward said, showing the notice he puts on windshields.
“It’s logical,” said Sheila Hildred, about the warning to turn her car’s wheels into the curb. She and her husband, Chris, were visiting Nevada City from Burnaby, British Columbia.
But people shouldn’t think Ward is a pushover.
“Once I commit to doing something, I’ll follow through,” Ward said.
Ward said he didn’t forget or back off recently after he told one skateboarder there was no skateboarding allowed downtown. Ward saw the same person skating minutes later in a different downtown location.
He confiscated the board.
Working toward solutions
It also seemed logical that business owners would work among themselves to solve parking concerns. Ward said he’s hearing some solutions are in the initial stages.
The owner of Broad Street Furniture has a couple excess spaces and is willing to give them up to Bank of America, which doesn’t have enough for its employees, Ward said.
To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail gregm@theunion .com or call 477-4234.
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