Laura Barajas has patrolled downtown Sherman for ten years, armed only with a radio and her formidable chalking stick. She wears a grey Sherman P.D. t-shirt, blue shorts, and a farmer’s tan. She walks about a mile on each of her routes, taking approximately eight thousand brisk steps a day.
Barajas writes an average of ten tickets daily and has yet to work a shift when she hasn’t had the need to write a citation. When she isn’t nabbing parking violators, she works administrative jobs at the police station. Barajas is an excellent amateur angler and often exchanges fish tales with Dale the barber, on Travis Street, over a glass of orange juice.
Q&A interview by Marcus Vela
Texoma Living! Staff Reporter
What is your official title?
Parking Enforcement Attendant. A lot people refer to me as a meter maid, even though there are no meters, but it’s because the city used to have them. Some people call me Officer Laura. It doesn’t bother me when people do that, but I am actually a civilian. I figured I get chewed out enough just being a parking attendant, without being an officer. It’s part of the job I guess, but I do enjoy what I do. The job is very relaxing. Something different happens every day.
How long does it take to do a route, and do you walk the same one each time?
It is about a forty-five minute walk. I take different routes, so people won’t get used to me going a certain way. I set checkpoints on my route so I can keep up with times. If I hit one at 9:04 in the morning, on my second route I will try to get there by 12:20. I’m not perfect, so I try to give people a fifteen minute grace period before writing a time violation. I don’t want to cheat anyone.
Is it difficult giving someone a citation?
Writing a ticket is a tough decision, especially when I get to know people, but they understand it’s my job.
What is the most common ticket you write?
Parking over the line. People don’t realize they’re over the line and actually taking up two spaces. A lot of the time people think parking over the line is no big deal, but when there are only ten parking spaces, and two people take up two spaces each, there really isn’t any reason for that. On occasion, if someone is parked over the line I will write a warning. If you’re way over, then you’ll get a citation. It’s just a decision that I have to make. Second most common is the three hour parking violation.
Do you ever give someone a break?
Not on time violations. But if I see someone pull up, and they park over the line, I will show them that they are parking over the line, and I will explain to them that they could get a ticket. A lot of the time I will start to write a ticket and people will run over yelling, “Wait, I’m coming, I’m coming,” but if I didn’t continue to write the ticket, then everyone would come out running. It’s hard to write that ticket sometimes because I know they are about to leave, but it’s my job.
Do you wear out a lot of walking shoes?
Yes I do. The Sherman Police Department pays for them. Each pair lasts about four months. I try to get them resoled every once in awhile, but I do go through quite a few shoes. Having actual walking shoes makes a huge difference. It’s real important to have good shoes. The girl that did my job before me did it for fourteen years, and she quit because her feet started to hurt her. When I took over she stressed to always have good shoes.
Anything unusual happen on your watch?
The most unusual thing was on Crockett Street. I went to mark the tires, and there weren’t any. It was sitting on cement blocks. Later I found out that the driver was renting the tires and had had them repossessed. I kind of laughed, because I was like, I know someone is watching me right now, thinking “Is she going to mark the rims?” Shoot, I thought, I’ll give this driver a break.
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