By Daniel Kelley
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Philadelphia police are using a velvet hammer to crack down on the illegal but widespread practice of saving parking spaces with furniture, toilets and other items, by turning to a Twitter hashtag that warns #NoSavesies.
"Shoveling a spot from a public street does not make it yours," Sergeant Eric Gripp, who runs the Philadelphia Police Department's Twitter account, told Reuters on Wednesday.
With the value of a no-cost street parking spot rising as quickly as snowbanks this winter, northern cities including Boston, Chicago and Baltimore are familiar with the problem.
Philadelphia is using social media to take the lead in raising awareness that saving spots is illegal.
On the police department's twitter page, famed Philadelphian Ben Franklin, the U.S. founding father known for saying "A penny saved is a penny earned," is paraphrased in the service of parking peace: "A parking spot saved is a lesson learned." Another tagline, with a photo of Kanye West interrupting fellow singer Taylor Swift at a music awards ceremony, says: "That's a nice excuse, and Ima let you finish. But saving parking spots is still illegal."
This season's harsh weather and street-clogging piles of snow have amplified the age-old battle over street parking, Gripp said.
"Since the advent of the automobile in Philadelphia, we've had arguments over parking spots," he said.
Over the years, illicit tools used to claim spots have included commandeered traffic cones, trash cans, lawn chairs and even a working grandfather clock, Gripp said.
"It was actually keeping time," Gripp.said.
Philadelphia's twitter campaign was started a month ago - with the hashtag #NoSavesies - and immediately got traction, with many residents retweeting the message they called an eye-opener.
"The most shocking is the number of that people that did not know you couldn't do that," Gripp said.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg)