The city of Delaware has been offering residents and visitors the gift of free holiday parking for the past decade, although many people might not have noticed.

The city of Delaware has been offering residents and visitors the gift of free holiday parking for the past decade, although many people might not have noticed.

Motorists can park for free for three hours at a time at meters topped with green bags in downtown city lots until Jan. 1. Delaware City Council added the free-parking period, which lasts from the Friday after Thanksgiving until New Year's Day, to the city's codified ordinances in 2004.

Although the law is a decade old, city spokesman Lee Yoakum said city officials are making a push to let residents and visitors in on the open secret.

"Some might be confused and think that those are meters that aren't working," he said.

Yoakum said the city has multiple reasons for offering free parking during the holiday-shopping season.

"It promotes local businesses and keeps the retail dollars local," he said.

Yoakum said offering free parking also gives newcomers a positive impression of the city.

"A visitor may not buy something ... but because they had a favorable experience, perhaps they'll come back another time," he said.

About 75 meters in city lots will be marked with the green bags. Free parking will not be offered at any of the city's on-street meters.

Delaware police Capt. Adam Moore said parking-enforcement officers will monitor the free spots to ensure the three-hour limit is being honored.

Parking in downtown Delaware has been a major focus of council this year. In June, the panel voted to hike fines for violations at city meters and designated two-hour parking spaces.

Council also gave city employees the ability to place locking boots on the wheels of vehicles that receive three or more unpaid parking tickets within 30 days.

Moore said the city has employed the boot once since gaining the new enforcement tool.

"That promptly brought the owner to the police station," he said, noting the action resulted in the payment of five outstanding tickets.

Delaware collected about $42,000 in fines this year by the end of October, compared with about $22,000 during the same time period in 2014.

Along with the increased fine amounts, which took effect in July, Moore said the spike in revenue largely can be attributed to more staffing. The city had one enforcement officer for the majority of 2014 and has had two for all of 2015.

The city issued just shy of 4,000 parking citations by the end of October, compared with about 2,500 during the same time period in 2014.

Moore said police officials see tickets as less of a revenue-generator and more of a tool to keep repeat offenders from hogging parking spots downtown.