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Lost: Giant Metal Boot

Albany police search for a cast-iron-and-steel wheel lock, and the person who illegally removed it

by Darryl McGrath on May 1, 2013 · 1 comment

Albany police and parking enforcement agents are searching for a gray pickup truck whose driver apparently figured out how to remove the cast-iron-and-steel wheel-locking device known as a “boot.” Boots are used to disable vehicles whose owners owe $200 or more for back tickets. Whoever defeated the boot seems to have made off with the 45-pound lock.

“It’s happened before, but it’s extremely rare,” said Albany Police spokesman Officer Steven Smith.

The older-model Chevrolet truck was parked on Morris Street between Delaware Avenue and Lark Street, Smith said. The boot went onto the truck March 25, and the disappearance of the truck and boot was discovered April 15. Vehicle owners have 24 hours to pay tickets before they risk having their booted vehicle towed, and it was not immediately clear why the disappearance was not discovered for three weeks.

“While boots are certainly an inconvenience for people, they’re a courtesy, in a way,” Smith said. “The boot gives people the opportunity to pay their tickets without their vehicle being towed.”

The boot is used in many U.S. cities, and reports indicate that while the boot does generate revenue, it also triggers visceral reactions. Jim Balderston, a reporter for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, once referred to the city’s use of the boot as a sign of “creeping fascism.” The paper tested the fallibility of the boot and determined that it can be removed without unlocking it, although Balderston did not provide instructions. Smith and parking enforcement staff say people who try this could seriously damage their car and face criminal penalties.

While no one knows how the boot was removed from the pickup, Smith suspects it may have been an older boot with worn parts. Defeating a boot is about to get much harder, he said.

“We do have new boots that are impossible to get off,” said Smith, who then paused and added, “Nearly impossible.”

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