City Claims Robin Hooders “Harassing” Meter Maids in Sentinel Feature Article

Robin Hood of KeeneThe Keene Sentinel’s Kyle Jarvis has written an excellent piece on Keene’s Robin Hooders – the good men and women who are on the streets daily, rescuing motorists from being ticketed by KPD’s meter maids. In the article, city boss John MacLean makes ridiculous claims and tries to paint the Robin Hooders as shark-like. He claims they are, “circling” the enforcers and “harassing”, “impeding”, and even “standing on top of” them! Unfortunately, James Cleaveland, aka Robin Hood was at his day job when the Sentinel reporter was looking for comment, so I was able to fill-in and answer MacLean’s outrageous claims. Here’s the piece from the Sentinel (so far the comments on the Sentinel page are all pro-Robin Hooders and anti-parking enforcement!):

Keene has its own version of parking wars.

City officials say members of a local pro-liberty group have gone too far in tailing city parking enforcement officers. And the city hired a former police officer to videotape evidence of what’s been happening.

For weeks, people associated with the group Free Keene have patrolled city streets, keeping an eye out for enforcement officers and getting ahead of them to plug expiring parking meters with change. In most cases, the so-called “Robin Hooders” leave a business card on the vehicle’s windshield, with a picture of a cartoon Robin Hood on one side, and a message on the other that reads, “Your meter expired! However, we saved you from the king’s tariff!”

They have also followed officers during their routes. And some city officials say the group’s behavior toward the officers just is too much.

“It’s harassing behavior,” said City Manager John A. MacLean. “By that I mean following someone with a camera, circling them, following them every day, up and down the street, and that’s been taking place.”

To determine whether harassing behavior was occurring, city officials hired Peter S. “Sturdy” Thomas, a former Keene police captain, to follow and videotape the Robin Hooders in the act, MacLean said.

“The fact that the (Robin Hooder) is circling, impeding, and standing on top of another person and talking at them and following them step by step, the concern the city has is that it’s a public safety issue,” MacLean said. “If several people are doing that, internally (the parking officer is) going to feel a little upset; you might walk a little faster, put your head down, and maybe you don’t see a car coming.

“You also have people engaged in harassing behavior, absorbed in what they’re up to, and that could be dangerous for them as well. And last, the public in general is concerned about this and doesn’t like it, and could get engaged, could lose their focus, possibly stepping out in front of a car, or getting involved in an altercation.”

Keene Human Resources Director William A. Prokop said Thomas spent 46.5 hours over roughly a 3½-week period beginning in mid-March videotaping the Robin Hooders, and was paid a total of $1,339.67 for his work. That money came out of the city’s safety and security budget. The city has used Thomas before to do background investigations of prospective city employees, he said.

Prokop said it’s the behavior alone that has city officials concerned, and not the fact that the Robin Hooders are preventing motorists from getting parking tickets.

“That part does not bother us or concern us at all,” he said. “If people want to put money in the meters, that’s fine, good for them. But when our employees can’t take a bathroom break without having someone waiting for them to start up again, that’s a concern.”

Prokop said that he’s received several emails from citizens asking what city officials would do about this, and that city employees other than parking officers have also expressed concerns.

“They considered this harassment and questioned whether it could spill over into their jobs, in addition to employees themselves who were feeling they were being harassed,” he said.

But Ian B. Freeman, a Free Keene blogger who hosts the local radio show “Free Talk Live,” called allegations of harassing behavior “ridiculous.”

“I know the people on the streets, and everybody’s very friendly to the parking enforcers,” he said. “Some days the parking enforcers are chatty, and some days they’re grumpy. But I’ve only seen the Robin Hooders act in a friendly manner towards these people.”

Freeman said 1,500 cards were given out in March alone, and that while some Robin Hooders are Free State Project members or Free Keene bloggers, many are not.

And while the Robin Hooders do usually carry video cameras, Freeman said it’s for accountability purposes only, to make sure their actions are documented to prevent parking enforcers or anyone else from making false claims against them.

Robin Hooders do sometimes wait for parking enforcers to return from breaks, Freeman said, because their objective is to get ahead of them to prevent parking tickets from being issued.

“If they don’t like it, they should shut down the parking enforcement department,” he said. “That would solve the problem, and I think that would make people very happy.”

Freeman believes the parking enforcement operation is unnecessary, which is similar to how he feels about most government operations.

“They have to maintain the illusion of legitimacy, because essentially government is a coercive monopoly; if you don’t do what they say, they’re going to possibly put you in a cage (jail).”

Free Keene has ruffled feathers in the community several times, most notably in protesting drug laws by holding daily “4:20” marijuana smoking sessions in Keene’s Central Square, approaching Keene Middle School students in protest of public education and even hosting a “Keene City Council drinking game” to protest open container laws.

Freeman said most of the response from the public to the “Robin Hood” effort has been positive.

“Thank you Robin Hood, very clever, and with a welcome sense of humor,” one poster said on the group’s Facebook page.

“Thanks for filling my meter — awesome!” said another.

The video evidence Thomas recorded was recently turned over to the city’s legal department, which is reviewing the material to determine whether harassing behavior occurred, Prokop said.

A meeting later this week or early next week between MacLean, city attorneys and Prokop will help determine city officials’ next step, Prokop said.

  • Freedom_Fighter_of_America

    Sorry folks, you can’t call public scrutiny harassment to avoid public scrutiny. If you don’t like your public masters following or video recording you, then it’s time you remember what your station is the fact that it’s the people who grant you privileges, not rights, as a government. And as such, your privileges can be revoked.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/fst.sqr Fst Sqr

    MacLean said. “The fact that the (Robin Hooder) is…. standing on top of another person”

    Who stood on top of who? LOL

  • Jo Wells

    FreeKeene is controlled opposition. Have you ever seen them carrying signs that say “privatize the streets?” Why do you think they avoid that issue? By distracting the sheeple with the false issue of whether some parking spaces ought to be metered or not, they are concealing the real 300 pound elephant in the room: that so-called public property is theft.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fst.sqr Fst Sqr

      I once considered being a “toll road libertarian” but then I realized it was wrong because it would turn the world into a prison, especially for the poor.

    • MaineShark

      Nothing stopping folks from putting private roads into a trust to ensure that they retain unrestricted access.

      I also expect that, in commercial areas, the adjoining businesses who would own the road, would have a /wee/ bit of incentive in keeping the road in good condition, and access unrestricted, so that their customers have a way to reach their stores.

      There are plenty of places where private roads exist, and no one has demonstrated any case in which they “turn[ed] the world into a prison.”

    • Katherine Stark

      That is an excellent point, MaineShark, I would just like to put my support behind what you say, and to even take it one step further. You aren’t even mentioning one of the biggest benefits of havingprivate roads supported by the commercial businesses the roads lead to: namely the owners of the road will have a profit-driven incentive to keep the undesirables off the road and out of the shopping areas. Right now, since roads are “public” any scumbag who wants can drive down any road, and even if we take away their license, they can still legally walk to respectable neighborhoods where nice people live and shop. I call on all readers to join with me and MaineShark in supporting a transition to improved new world where the productive and sanitary members of society can live in peace and prosperity without being reminded of the subhuman filth that infects so much of this planet.

    • MaineShark

      You appear confused. You’ve described the current situation, where “undesireables” get harassed, prohibited, caged, and sometimes murdered for using the roads. “Driving while Black,” being an “illegal,” or just being a young woman driving alone at night can get one threatened, beaten, chained, electrocuted, sexually assaulted, or worse, by the thugs employed by the “owner” of those roads.

      No private owner could get away with anything like that. Look at the uproar that Chic-Fil-A faced just because the president of the company made a discriminatory comment, though the company, itself, was not actually engaging in any discriminatory behavior. Try /actually/ discriminating, and even a small-town business will find itself facing severe repercussions from the community, just by announcing such a policy. Only the /government/ can get away with discrimination without severe consequences (look at the thugs going around preventing folks from feeding the hungry in many cities).

    • FK_reader

      Curious about roads? Then read Edward Stringham’s book Anarchy and the Law.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.crawford.3994 David Crawford

    imo more juxtaposing “harassment” w fk etc …is not good… particularly when there WAS no harassment ..