(TNS) -- The city of Rochester, Minn., is ready to leave residential parking stickers in the past.
As early as Sept. 1, the city's parking enforcement could operate entirely by automated license plate readers and a digital database.
About 2,000 Rochester residents currently hold parking permits in the city's 133 established residential parking zones. The zones help to preserve on-street parking space for residents and businesses in the zones and daytime care providers.
In the past, permit holders have displayed a permit tag on their vehicle's license plate, or put a temporary tag on the vehicle's dashboard.
A new technology would allow community service officers — the city's parking enforcement — to use automatic license plate readers to scan license plate letters and numbers instead of looking for a permit.
The license plate reader equipment is attached to the officers' vehicles and can operate while the officer slowly drives through a residential permit parking area. The device reads license plate numbers and checks them against the city's database of permit holders, specific to each of the 133 permit zones.
"As (community service officers) drive through, if a license plate is flagged for a vehicle that shouldn't be there, the officer can pull it up and immediately issue a ticket," City Clerk Aaron Reeves said.
The city uses three parking control vehicles to patrol residential permit parking areas. As of Aug. 1, the vehicles have been equipped with automatic license plate readers, Reeves said.
The technology should save time and also resolve some of the most common complaints related to residential permit parking — for example, people borrowing permits or applying for and selling a permit.
"It really eases the enforcement process and makes it more efficient, and it's also going to take care of some of the complaints we get of people using tags that probably shouldn't be," Reeves said.
License plate reader technology has had other law enforcement applications, such as identifying vehicles associated with warrant subjects or suspects of major crimes. The Rochester Police Department would support some criminal information being available to parking enforcement officers — who are not sworn police officers.
"From my perspective, I think it is important to give them the information that they need to not only do their jobs more efficiently, but also to keep them safe," Rochester Police Department Sgt. Chad Blanchette said in an email to the Post-Bulletin.
The license plate reader equipment could alert a parking enforcement officer to a vehicle that is associated with a warrant subject, or a vehicle that is stolen, Blanchette said. In that situation, Blanchette would want the community service officer to be aware of the situation and be able to request assistance before taking enforcement action, he said.
The city's license plate reader program for parking enforcement has not yet been finalized but is scheduled to take effect Sept. 1. For more residential permit parking information, see the city of Rochester website at rochestermn.gov.
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