Tempe police: Thieves caught taking advantage of 15-minute free parking on city’s pay lots

With a 15-minute grace period, drivers have the freedom to enter Green P lots at the Tempe and North Cavecreek boulevards border and take their chances.

But there are signs that tell potential drivers things might not be what they think.

Rachael Martinez-Wadinset, a master escrow specialist who lives in Tempe and works at the 10th Street General Store, was at North Cavecreek Friday and witnessed three cars giving into the free.

“This one person, he was trying to find a spot, and then he looked up and then saw it was for 15 minutes,” she said. “They were there for five minutes. Then they realized it was 15 minutes.”

Which is why Martinez-Wadinset wanted to tell the story. She warned others to be careful.

“Just be suspicious of any sign that they see at the curb that’s big enough that you can see out from it,” she said. “You can’t see the sign.”

That’s because it would be against state law to pay for an accident.

“Well, you can go around the sign or it can be pushed at the curb so you can access the space,” Martinez-Wadinset explained. “Or, you can just put the cash on the windshield.”

And if people go for that?

“Yeah, the cops would come out and arrest you,” she said.

Apparently, Tempe police have been to the lot already this week, following a string of crooks taking advantage of the city’s free street parking.

Phoenix police also said they’ve been busy following reports of people illegally entering the lot.

According to Tempe police, officers have seen 22 instances where someone took advantage of the free lot, either illegally moving their car or working with an accomplice to find a gap to beat the 15-minute grace period.

All told, police say the suspects have taken a total of $300 from 13 vehicles.

The ploy worked, and police caught those suspects on camera.

“They were seen getting behind the wheel, and I can tell you it was a scam because the vehicle was still running, and it was registering,” officer Pat Castaneda said.

Over at the Tempe Green P lot, many drivers were unaware of the strategy.

“Oh no,” Connie Ylondra said, when asked about the signs at the location. “I thought it was free parking.”

“What a lie,” Alicia Gooding added. “I went in there to use the lot and people were like, ‘Sorry, you can’t park here for free.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I just paid for 15 minutes of parking right here.’”

What about that person that warned Martinez-Wadinset about the 15-minute grace period?

“If that person is a wise one and thought about that and got their friends to park next to them, they would be in the right,” she said.

“That didn’t happen. So, maybe they should tell that friend what happened and hope for a change,” Gooding added.

The answer is yes, a change is coming.

Tempe Mayor Mark Wasden announced earlier this week that five of the city’s city-owned lots, including the Green P lots, will open a paid, metered parking option in the near future.

Wasden told ABC15 some of the locations are changing and others are staying the same.

The city did not name any of the changes or locations.

Wasden did not immediately return a request for an interview.

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