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SOMERVILLE, Mass. (CAP) - Combating what they're calling a "dangerous trend," police in several northern cities have warned residents that it is illegal to save your shoveled-out parking spot by leaving your child or your pet in it.
"We've had several close calls already," said Somerville, Mass. Police Chief Howard Frederickson. "If someone has been driving around long enough, the fact that you've left your kid in your parking spot won't be enough to deter them.
"I'm not saying they'll run the kid over, but they're likely to at least pick him up and move him to another part of the street," he said, explaining that this happened several times in his city during the last snowstorm, and in one case it took a young boy, 7, several hours to wander home.
But some urban residents defend the practice, saying they only do it as a last resort. "What am I supposed to do? They moved my folding chair, my garbage pail, my old dining room table and even a broken washing machine I lugged out there," said "Bob" of Chicago, Ill., who asked not to be identified by his full name.
"And it's not like I leave her out there all night," he said, referring to his daughter, Melissa, 8. "It's only when I'm making a quick trip, like to the corner to buy cigarettes or play Keno."
Even more common, say authorities, is residents leaving their pets in their parking spots, typically tied-up dogs but also ferrets and gerbils in their cages, and in at least one case in South Boston, an entire aquarium full of fish. That case ended in tragedy when the temperature dropped suddenly.
"I can absolutely see it," said Chief Frederickson about the South Boston incident. "You think, nobody's gonna take my spot if I leave my pet or my kid in it, but you come home a few hours later and you have to use an ice pick to chop out your fishsicles."
Fights over saved spots have become a common occurrence, say authorities, but the altercations have gotten worse the more people leave their loved ones in the spots.
"Typically you've just had a couple of guys throwing punches, but now you've got the kids kicking each other, and if there are dogs or ferrets involved there's also biting," said Frederickson.
Jon Bartolodo, director of public works for Thornton Township, Ill., noted that leaving your kids and pets in your spot can also impede plow drivers making a second or third run down the street.
"They're authorized to plow right over small obstacles like traffic cones and mailboxes," he noted. "But they run over a kid, the city's got a lawsuit on its hands."
- CAP News Staff
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