I had never heard of Operation Firecap. Usually such provocative names are attached to police undercover operations that result in huge drug busts or successful infiltrations of the organized crime world.
This week, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary reported that its Operation Firecap, which had nothing to do with drugs or organized crime, had been a huge success. For three weeks, the police cracked down on people who park illegally in the blue-zone parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities. Reaction has been positive overall, with people applauding the officers for addressing one of the more annoying driving issues in our province.
According to Sgt. Brian Gosse, 688 tickets were handed out to alleged offenders. I use the word “alleged” because I’m sure some will challenge the tickets in traffic court, and no doubt some folks will be exonerated.
Gosse made an interesting observation when asked why people with no mobility problems would use the blue spaces and risk getting caught. “The most common reason for being parked there, when asked? They say they’re only parked there for a minute,” he said.
I bet if you could find out who was ticketed in Operation Firecap, a lot of them would be just like you and me. They don’t represent the stereotypical criminal element. I bet most of them would qualify as good citizens who would never consider committing a crime. Yes, there are some who, when confronted, will argue and fight and make total asses of themselves, but most people who commit this particular infraction are not going to say a word. They will quietly pay the ticket and vow to never park in a blue zone again.
Gosse’s comment about why people park in blue zones illegally tells a story. Good people trying to go about their lives take the risk because they really do intend to “only be a minute.” People park illegally in fire lanes for the same reason.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not defending blue-zone abusers. The “only be a minute” argument is no justification. But what it shows us is that time has become so precious that we are prepared to break the law, and our own ethical code of conduct, in some cases, to save a little of it.
Have you ever wondered why people use such excessive speed on the Outer Ring Road? To save time.
If you drive the entire Outer Ring Road, from Exit 41 to Exit 49 — approximately 17 kilometres — you can cover the distance in 10.2 minutes. If you drive it at 130 km/h an hour, you can do it in 7.8 minutes — a savings of 144 seconds; a little less than three minutes.
If we are willing to risk our own lives and the lives of others for three minutes, why should we be surprised when “only be a minute” justifies breaking a parking rule?
The executive director of the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador was ecstatic about the crackdown. Kelly White reminds those of us who can walk without aid and run for fun that some citizens are not as lucky.
“For persons with disabilities, it’s important that when they go out that they can access a wide space, a space that’s close to the front entrance,” she says. We all know that, and most of us would do everything we can to help someone facing such mobility challenges.
I imagine a lot of the 688 people ticketed during Operation Firecap would agree with White’s sentiments, yet they broke the law and now will pay for their folly.
There were a few negative comments about Operation Firecap on media websites, but overall it was a success and served a good purpose. Now, if it could only teach us to slow down, to walk a little further, to spend a little time instead of trying to steal it, that would be good for all of us.