OCCC Police Chief James Fitzpatrick understands that in the first weeks of the semester, campus parking lots may appear crowded. However, he said, there are more than enough parking spaces for everyone.
OCCC’s campus has about 3,650 parking spaces, Fitzpatrick said. Of those, 249 of those are reserved specifically for faculty and staff, and 102 are reserved as handicapped parking.
He said while he doesn’t expect all 3,650 spots to be occupied at the same time, his department does have a contingency plan in place for directing traffic and accommodating all of the college’s faculty, staff, students and guests if that should happen.
Fitzpatrick said drivers should have no problem locating parking spaces in these first, hectic days.
“We very rarely ever fill up in the back parking lots,” he said.“In all that time you waste driving around and waiting for somebody to pull out, you could have already driven to D, E and F lots and come right into the building.
“It’s only going to be for a couple of weeks and when you add up the number of extra steps, it’s not a considerable difference,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said the campus police will be working hard to keep the parking lots safe and uncongested.
He said, as a result, it’s expected his department will issue more tickets in the first few weeks than they will throughout the entire rest of the semester. Fitzpatrick said most of those tickets will be for parking violations.
“That’s simply because when students run out of space, a couple of them invent spaces.”
A common complaint in the first weeks is of vehicles parked outside of designated parking spaces blocking other vehicles from leaving or entering the lot, Fitzpatrick said. He said campus police know the areas where this is most prone to happen.
“We focus on that and it doesn’t last long. During the rest of the year, almost all our parking issues involve people parking in faculty staff spots when they don’t belong there.”
Fitzpatrick warns against illegally parking in handicapped spaces.
“You park there and it can cost you over $500 after court costs and everything,” he said.
Campus police also will enforce speed limits and stop signs. However, Fitzpatrick said, the goal is to keep students safe, not to write tickets.
“We try to get things resolved without involving big fines. That’s not what we’re here for.”
The police chief said common irresponsibility is what earns drivers on campus moving violations.
He said infractions that would otherwise earn drivers only a warning often lead to the discovery of invalid licenses or insurance, forcing further action.
He advises drivers on campus to watch their speed, observe the stop signs and to be especially observant when backing out of a parking space.
“The vast majority of accidents we have out there comes from somebody backing out of a parking space.
“If you’re backing, you’re responsible for making sure you can do it safely. If you hit somebody, that’s negligence.”
Fitzpatrick said some responsibility for alleviating congestion in the parking lots falls to OCCC’s students as well.
He recommends taking care of bookstore, financial aid and advising needs before classes begin or at more reasonable times instead of attempting to handle business in between classes.
In the first week of classes, Fitzpatrick said, those areas will have long lines that will not move quickly.
“A lot of it just comes down to time management and understanding you can do it early,” he said.
“It’s impossible to move through these lines in the 10 minutes you have between classes.”
Fitzpatrick said to take advantage of the college’s extended hours early in the semester.
“Also, pay attention to your schedule,” he said. “Don’t come to campus hours before you need to be here.”
Fitzpatrick said campus police are eager to help students in the parking lots any way they can.
“We provide services too,” he said.
Campus police will escort drivers to their cars if requested and they will jump a dead battery, air up a tire or open a door for someone who’s locked their keys in their car, Fitzpatrick said.
“There’s one little caveat to that though,” he said. “You’ve got to have a license and you’ve got to have insurance.
“We will not help to get you in motion if you shouldn’t be driving.”
Fitzpatrick said students can expect to see his officers patrolling the parking lots of OCCC and assures they will be happy to help. Emergency phones that connect immediately to the campus police are located in every lot on campus.
For more information, contact the OCCC Campus Police Department at 405-682-7872 or visit www.occc.edu/police. To see a copy of the Traffic Parking brochure, visit www.occc.edu/police/pdf/TrafficParkingBrochure.pdf.
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