Don't #PhillyShrug the #NoSavesies law

PHOTO: ERIC MENCHER You know saving that spot's illegal, right? The police say they're focusing on educating space-savers.
PHOTO: ERIC MENCHER You know saving that spot's illegal, right? The police say they're focusing on educating space-savers.
Posted: February 21, 2014

ARE YOU LOOKING to get punched?

That's what a friend asked when I told him I'd tried to convince a few strangers that saving parking spots in Philly is illegal.

And, no, I'm not looking for a bruising. But judging by the responses I got, I could see his point.

When I broached the subject with spot-saving offenders, people either looked at me like I was high or not from here, both possibilities met with equal amounts of hostility.

"What, are you a cop or something?" a young man on Willow Grove Avenue asked as he set out enough lawn chairs for a garden party. What went unsaid: "If you're not, get lost."

Message received, bro.

Then, the nurse at my doctor's office mentioned that a neighbor took her freshly shoveled spot the night before.

"You know," I gently waded in, "it's actually illegal . . ."

But I'm not sure the usually mellow grandmother even heard me over her cries of, "The nerve! The nerve!"

Saving spots in Philly is as much of a tradition as cheesesteaks and the Mummers. And as with many Philly traditions, it's treated as law - even if the law actually states you don't own the street, or that parking spot, no matter how many hours and calories you burned clearing it of snow.

Long before Philadelphia police Sgt. Eric Gripp created the inspired #NoSavesies hashtag to try to keep citizens from illegally saving parking spots, he was responding to calls about the time-honored tradition in South Philly.

"If it wasn't about the actual cone or chair or boat or whatever, it was the fight that happened afterward over the space or it was a call from a visiting nurse trying to render services to someone on the block and they literally have nowhere to park," he said. "Everybody's at work but the entire block is just a sea of cones and chairs."

And while there may not be an explicit "#NoSavesies" law on the books, Gripp said the act of calling dibs on the spot you just cleared violates several city and state codes. Among them are obstructing the highway and littering, which come with fines.

"Just because a practice has been going on for so long that [it] has been ignored, doesn't mean that we need to continue to do so," he said.

Not that cops are looking to break residents' chops over it. The goal, Gripp said, is to educate people and keep the peace over an issue that can quickly go bad.

I've got an all-weather "savesies" offender on my street. Mostly my neighbors and I live with it because he's a nice enough guy and it's just not worth the hassle. But not all Philadelphians are pacifists when it comes to parking spaces.

In November, a man was fatally shot over a parking space in West Philly. And on Feb. 16, someone posted a YouTube video titled "Philadelphia fighting over a parking spot" that captures a heated argument between a man and woman.

"Sis, now y'all know . . . I dug the parking spot out. Why you take it?" a man on the street tells a woman off camera. A baby can be heard crying in the background.

"I'm not moving my car," the woman tells the man, "There's no assigned parking on this street."

When the man continues to press and the woman still refuses to move, it gets worse.

"So when I go over there and flatten all them tires . . . "

The woman is heard calling police, which is what Gripp says people should do.

"Let us be the bad guy rather than get into an argument, or worse," he said. "Call 9-1-1."

Gripp is no fool, he knows changing long-standing traditions is no easy task - even with a popular #NoSavesies hashtag. But he said he's encouraged by the dialogue it's begun, even if more than one follower has suggested cops come out and arrest their chairs.

"We understand that it can be really frustrating when you dig out a spot and someone takes it when you leave to get a gallon of milk," he said. "But it doesn't change the fact that the spot is just not yours."

So what's the ETA on parking Kumbaya then?

"I don't think that all of a sudden there's going to be a big rainbow over the city and everyone is going to start sharing parking," Gripp said. "But if we start letting the little things go . . . where does it end?"

As Gripp tweeted under the @PhillyPolice twitter account, "We can't #PhillyShrug the issue."

You had me at #PhillyShrug, Sergeant.


Phone: 215-854-5943

On Twitter: @NotesFromHel

On Facebook: Helen.Ubinas

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