Community Standards Officer Chani Reaves pulls out of the City Hall parking lot at 9 a.m. Today’s first destination: someone’s called to report an abandoned vehicle blocking a driveway south of Packard.
Reaves started with the Ann Arbor Police Department unit eleven years ago, and figures when she’s on the road she answers five to ten complaints in a shift. And she writes anywhere from 70 to 130 parking tickets a shift.
“I like my job,” she says as she steers her small gray city pickup through downtown. “Some of the citizens don’t care for us, but we’re just doing our job.
“It’s an interesting job. I meet a lot of people, and I’m helping keep Ann Arbor clean. We warn people about messy trash or grass, and vegetation that’s gotten too long, or snow and ice that needs taking care of. They’ve got twenty-four hours to clean it up, and then we issue a citation if they’re still not in compliance.”
The Hyundai on Packard extends four feet beyond the legal parking spot. Reaves takes a photo to document the violation, then writes a ticket on her onboard computer. She calls for a tow, puts the ticket in a plastic envelope she sticks to the car’s window, and she checks for bumps and dings so “the owner can’t say it was damaged in towing.” She notes a long scratch on the passenger side door.
Sakstrup’s arrives within ten minutes and has the Hyundai out of the way in another ten. Reaves moves on to the first item on today’s task sheet: a homeowner has called to report that a Tahoe with Pennsylvania plates has been parked in front of a home west of North Main for three weeks.
“Every vehicle has to move every forty-eight hours on every street in Ann Arbor,” Reaves says as she chalks the tires, writes the particulars on a whiteboard, and takes pictures. “We’ll do a forty-eight-hour follow-up and see if it’s moved.” If not, the Tahoe will be towed and impounded.
As she drives through the neighborhood, Reaves stops, picks up signs promoting the Wednesday evening farmers markets on the lawn between the sidewalk and curb, and tosses them in the back of the truck. “The [lawn] extension is city property,” she explains.
She passes a house with its lawn gone wild: grass several feet tall, shrubs over the windows, and dead trees swaying in the breeze. “We’ve been there many times,” Reaves says. “They’re against cutting anything, but they will pull some things up by the roots.”
What was her worst call? “A man came out of the house screaming that we were harassing him, and he had pit bulls barking inside the house,” she says. “Then his wife came out and calmed him down, and he went into the house—and I explained that if they just kept things neater, we wouldn’t be coming out.”