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Alameda, Calif., to Use Plate Readers for Parking Enforcement

The city is now using automated license plate readers to enforce its parking rules. The readers will collect a photo of vehicle plates and GPS coordinates to better assist city staff with enforcement operations.

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Shutterstock/John McLenaghan
(TNS) — City employees who hand out parking tickets are set to get an extra tool to identify those who leave their cars in a spot for too long.

Automatic license plate readers, a technology that scans plates and signals a possible violation, will soon be attached to the vehicles that employees use as they travel around town and issue citations.

The readers can quickly scan license plates as the city worker drives by, registering hundreds of plates per minute. The collected information includes a photo of each plate, GPS coordinates, and the date and time the image was captured.

The idea is to make a parking technician’s job easier — so no more chalking tires or physically checking if a meter is expired, indicating someone has parked beyond the extended limit.

“It’s a very cost-effective way of doing parking enforcement,” said Andrew Thomas, the city’s planning, building and transportation director, at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Berkeley and Emeryville already have equipped parking enforcement vehicles with automated license plate readers.

Along with indicating if a vehicle has been parked in a spot beyond the allowed limit, the devices can show if a vehicle has been reported stolen, or whether the license plate has been flagged in a police investigation, Thomas said.

On Tuesday, the council signed off on using the cameras. The city still needs to select a vendor and approve a contract.

When the cameras would be installed, how many the city would buy or what they would cost has not been determined.

Councilman Tony Daysog cast the lone no vote, saying it would result with the parking enforcement department issuing citations “completely on steroids.”

“I prefer the old way of identifying people who have not paid their parking tickets,” said Daysog, who acknowledged the drawbacks of the current system, such as the time it takes for a technician to physically check a meter.

Thomas said technicians will likely begin using the readers at Alameda Point, or the former Alameda Naval Air Station, where there is little metered parking, a new ferry terminal is getting built, but businesses are now operating.

“This technology would be perfect for that (area),” he said.

Five part-time employees enforce parking rules in the city, Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri said Friday. The city has also budgeted two more full-time parking enforcing jobs. So far, no one has been hired for those positions.

Alameda expects an increased demand for parking at the former Navy base as it gets redeveloped, so it wants to be able to enforce the time limits.

After it’s installed, the technology will scan a parked vehicle’s license plate, and when a parking technician returns to the area, scan it again and flag the vehicle if it has been parked there longer than the permitted time.

“This is literally just about reading the license plates,” Thomas said.

The council recommended that any data collected from vehicles that were not cited or part of a police investigation be erased immediately, and the rest kept for one year.

Alameda equipped four patrol cars with license plate readers cameras in May 2014, despite the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics maintaining that the technology could invade people’s privacy.

©2020 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.