Police Break Into Car to Take Protester's Sign

Times Staff Writer

Laguna Beach resident Patrick Crosby, who may be the world's first parking rights activist, has let his local police force know what he thinks about their parking policy.

And that's where he got into trouble.

Laguna Beach police, citing a violation of the vehicle code, broke into Crosby's car Saturday and removed a homemade sign that read: "Laguna Police Suck. Parking for Locals First."

Officer Robert August, acting watch commander, said by displaying the sign in his car Crosby was breaking the law by exhibiting an unofficial "traffic control device" that purportedly told people where they could park.

But Crosby, 39, an electrical engineer, denied that his message, placed in the window on the driver's side of his 1967 Dodge Monaco, had any resemblance to an official sign. It was crudely penned in red Magic Marker on a large poster board.

"This is absolutely outrageous," he said. "This is a clear violation of my First and Fourth Amendment rights."

Crosby said he suspects that the owner of a business on La Brea Street, where Crosby's car was parked at the time, told police about the sign, which he said he placed in his car Friday.

He said that owner "constantly" calls the police to complain that Crosby parks in excess of 72 hours in front of the business, a charge Crosby denies.

"It's very upsetting," he said.

Crosby has waged a battle against local parking ordinances that he says unfairly restrict parking for residents.

Officer August said police removed the offending sign from Crosby's car after a La Brea Street resident complained. He said an officer used a "slim jim," a metallic device that car thieves, mechanics and others use to open car doors, to break into Crosby's car and remove the sign.

"We knocked on his door and he wasn't there," August said. "So we went ahead and took the sign."

Crosby was cited for displaying the sign. The citation carries a $27 fine. August said Crosby probably will also be ticketed under the Municipal Code for displaying an obscene sign.

Under a California vehicle code section that took effect this year, August said police could have towed Crosby's car but, "as a courtesy," decided to let it be.

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