On a humid afternoon in mid-July, Scarsdale Parking Enforcement Officer Christian Henriquez embarked on his daily meter check. He walked down East Parkway, looking at the meters until he spotted one with a note on it. “Meter is broken,” read the note. Henriquez took out his ring of keys to unlock the hatch on the back of the meter. He pulled out the innards and examined the meter to diagnose the problem.
Beyond giving regular parking tickets for expired meters and registration violations, Henriquez also addresses broken meters and logs them for repair if needed.
“It doesn’t look like anything is jammed in there,” said Henriquez. “It could always be the motherboard. Maybe the reader inside isn’t working properly.”
Henriquez, one of the two part-time traffic enforcement officers for the Scarsdale Police Department, likes to consider himself a jack-of-all-trades, a requirement for those aspiring to work in the field of criminal justice.
“Doing parking [enforcement] has given me better opportunities to work in other departments,” said Henriquez, who also works part time as a parking enforcement officer in Tuckahoe. “It helps you with … learning how to talk to people because sometimes you do get put in those awkward situations but you just got to … relax and everything will be okay.”
Henriquez started working for the Scarsdale Police Department three years ago, originally as a police aide and eventually moving into his current role as a traffic enforcement officer. His day normally starts in the village at 8 a.m., when he drops off his lunch at the sub-station on East Parkway and grabs a radio, fresh batteries, a toolkit and his handheld device — an android phone outfitted with a scanner and a printer.
The new android handhelds were introduced just six months ago to enable parking enforcement officials to upload tickets directly to the cloud within 5 to 15 minutes, eliminating the previous process which limited uploading to the end of the day.
Because Scarsdale police officers don’t have access to Pango, the village’s new online parking payment system, parking enforcement officers are the only personnel with the ability to give tickets on expired meters, according to assistant to the village manager Josh Ringel. But Ringel said officers would have the ability to give tickets for Pango parking violations in the future.
For Henriquez, though, being a parking enforcement officer is much more than just giving tickets on cars at expired meters. Most of his job is about being a liaison for the community.
“I’m not just looking at the meters. I’m talking to … pedestrians that walk by, I’m asking how they’re doing,” he said. “It’s pretty normal that when I’m walking my route someone will come up to me and talk. Obviously I welcome it, it’s a good way to pass the time.”
Henriquez, who grew up in White Plains, said he never had a family member in law enforcement, but he was aware of the field through TV shows. Drawn to the career for its role in serving communities and helping people, Henriquez said he turned down a lacrosse scholarship at Dominican College so he could pursue a career in law enforcement.
“It was a very tough decision, but I knew that entering this agency was going to open more doors for me,” said Henriquez. “I don’t regret the decision… I never look back on it. If anything, I’m happy I made that decision.”
Henriquez transferred to Mercy College, where he graduated with a four-year degree in criminal justice and forensics. At 21, Henriquez took summer and winter classes while also working as a police aide for the Scarsdale Police Department so he could finish his education early and start on the path toward becoming a police officer. Usually working six to eight hour shifts three days a week — sometimes more if another officer is absent — Henriquez also works at the Tuckahoe Police Department, which makes parking enforcement not only a full-time job for him, but also a stepping stone to becoming a fully fledged officer.
“It’s good training, because as a police officer you’re put in awkward situations constantly,” said Henriquez. “[This job has] really helped me elevate to that next level.”
As Henriquez assessed the broken meter, a woman asked him if he had ticketed her car. He said he hadn’t — the Honda CR-V still had five minutes on the meter.
If he had issued a ticket, though, there wouldn’t have been much Henriquez could do to help her.
“As much as I would love to help the person, unless there’s an error … it’s out of my control,” he said.
Henriquez logged the meter in a Google doc, noting the need to replace it at a later date.
“I’m happy I got my foot in the door here in Scarsdale,” said Henriquez. “It’s a great learning experience.”