The problem: The Bible instructs Christians to love your neighbor as yourself. Madeline Nixon isn't so sure that Deliverance Evangelistic Church, on West Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia, is following that particular verse to the letter. She said that on Sundays, people attending services at Deliverance park illegally all over the neighborhood and cause a major headache for nearby residents.
"There is congestion from 20th and Sedgley to 22nd and Lehigh," said Nixon. "I mean, from corner to corner. All the cars are stacked up and down the street and in the middle of the street. We're talking bumper to bumper. The area is covered at least six blocks around."
According Nixon, who has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years, the problem starts at 10:30 a.m. every Sunday and lasts until the end of services around 1:30 p.m. She said the entire situation is a giant fender-bender waiting to happen.
"You have to pull out further in the street when you are trying to leave, and it could cause an accident," Nixon told Help Desk. "They are even parked in the middle of the street, which just adds to the problem." She said the streets in question are clearly marked as no-parking zones.
What we did: We checked out the situation on a recent Sunday morning. The neighborhood wasn't exactly in chaos, but there were plenty of cars parked illegally, especially in the middle of the street. We suspect there are other neighborhoods that deal with this problem on Sundays.
Nixon wasn't sure whom to contact about the problem. We suggested she get in touch with the ruthlessly efficient Philadelphia Parking Authority. If the PPA gets tipped off about where and when to find dozens of illegally parked cars, we figured, it will be there in no time.
We were wrong. Nixon called the Parking Authority, but couldn't seem to get any help.
"I called and I was given the runaround," said Nixon. "I was given a number, then another number, and then another number, all that had nothing to do with anyone I was trying to call. "
Eventually, Nixon was told the PPA would send someone out to take a look at the problem on Aug. 8. She saw a PPA van drive through the area that day, but saw none of the cars parked illegally receiving tickets.
Why didn't the PPA smite this problem? We asked Marty O'Rourke, a spokesman for the parking authority, why the agency couldn't seem to help Nixon. He explained that the authority can cover only so much ground. Parking enforcement officers are deployed to specific hot spots, such as college campuses, commercial corridors, school zones and special events, that yield regular violations. Lehigh Avenue falls outside of these zones.
"[That address] on West Lehigh Avenue is beyond the scope of the PPA's on-street enforcement coverage area," said O'Rourke. "I would suggest that the reader contact the 39th Police District."
So we called the Police Department, although we figured we would be told that the department has to focus its resources elsewhere.
Not so. Lt. Frank Vanore said that police recognize illegal parking by churchgoers is a serious issue.
"I've even had the same issue where I live," he said. "It's definitely a quality-of-life issue and we're concerned about it."
Vanore told us that police often don't know about a recurring parking issue unless residents notify the department about the problem. But don't call 9-1-1; this sort of issue is better addressed by contacting the commanding lieutenant in charge of your Police Service Area, who's charged with keeping in close touch with the community. (Find yours at phillypolice.com.)
Vanore cautioned that people with complaints shouldn't expect results overnight, since the department will want to work with both sides to find a resolution.
"We're not going to run out and ticket everyone who is going to church, especially if they've been doing that for 15 years," he said.
And indeed, when Help Desk reached out to Deliverance Evangelistic Church, they told us they were eager to "bring about an amicable resolution to the problem."
We'll put Nixon in touch with her local PSA lieutenant and the church, and check back in with her to see if things improve.
Have you been down this road with a parking problem? Did the police help you reach an amicable resolution, or does the illegal parking persist? Let us know at www.thecityhowl.com, call 215-854-5855 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.