by Mike Bourre, Vice-President Sales & Marketing, gtechna Inc.
Advantages of collaboration between parking enforcement & police agencies
For the past fifteen years I’ve worked with Public Safety and during this time interoperability has been, and still is, a hot subject. Why? Because having collaboration between public safety and parking enforcement agencies just makes sense. Sharing information amongst all agencies helps intelligence gathering and achieving the goal of ‘getting the bad guy’.
In public safety several aspects of technology arise when considering system interoperability including radio communication and the allocation of wireless frequencies, computer aided dispatch and records management interfaces. One might say these technologies are only used by public safety, which is typically true, but there are other integral technologies which can be leveraged to gather additional information for public safety. One of those essential technologies which will be covered in this article is license plate recognition (LPR).
Rising demand of license plate recognition (LPR)
“Some cities are already achieving interoperability…a stealth enforcement program is currently being employed by one of our clients, a major US city, between the Department of Public works and the police department…Parking enforcement officers aid in the detection of stolen vehicles. Any vehicles registered on a hotlist will simply trigger an alert that is sent directly to the police agency to act upon.”
For several years now LPR has been a tool primarily used by public safety for hotlist alerts such as arrest warrants or amber alerts. However, LPR is beginning to gain popularity in parking enforcement for cities and municipalities. The reason behind increasing attention toward LPR technology is that there is a technological shift occurring within the parking industry. In the past, parking was a fairly unsophisticated activity primarily consisting of single space meters or time limit zones. Parking was visually enforced meaning that a PEO (parking enforcement officer) would have to walk the beat and visually inspect vehicles to determine whether or not they were over the time limit. However, as populations increased, new, more efficient methods for managing parking were required to accommodate rising demand.
Parking enforcement’s hi-tech edge: the barcode
The technologies that most cities and municipalities are looking at today and the future are pay by plate, e-chalking, pay by phone and paperless permitting, which can all be enforced through License
Plate Recognition. In the parking industry, the license plate is becoming the “barcode”, or in other terms, the reference point for all enforcement. One might ask why this is happening? Well there are several factors: the first one being the European example, where these technologies have already been proven. Europe is more densely populated and has taken the lead when it comes to parking enforcement and management. Frequently, in most parking trade publications there seems to be a recurring theme: cities are asked to improve enforcement efficiencies while increasing revenues. LPR, basically a parking barcode scanner, for the parking industry is a perfect solution because it accomplishes both of these goals. For example, it is estimated that an LPR equipped vehicle can enforce the same area that would normally require 20 Parking Enforcement Officers (PEOs). Of course, parking system rights acquirement such pay by plate and other technologies also have its own merits which are beyond the scope of this subject.
The new meaning of interoperability – inter-agency cooperation
This article serves as a call to action to public safety agencies to take a closer look at what cities, municipalities and counties are doing with regard to the management of circulation and space, vital assets to communal prosperity. There are potentially powerful synergies to be forged by adopting an inter-agency cooperative model. For example, while a parking system is being enforced with LPR cameras, the data captured from vehicle plates could also be cross checked with hotlists as mentioned earlier. Some cities are already achieving this interoperability. For example, a stealth enforcement program is currently being employed by one of our clients, a major U.S. city, between the Department of Public works and the police department where parking enforcement officers aid in the detection of stolen vehicles. Any vehicles registered on a hotlist will simply trigger an alert that is sent directly to the police agency to act upon. An LPR hit on, for example, a stolen vehicle is sent in stealth mode to the police agency minimizing the involvement of the PEO allowing her to continue her beat without being involved in any way with a vehicle of interest. This information is then sent to police who can enforce properly and efficiently. The manifold benefits to police agencies speak for themselves but additionally, there is one reason why it is great for a city parking system as well. Take the following case for example:
– A car was just stolen, and the victim of the theft asks the police if they have any leads, to which the police reply, “no”.
– A month later the owner of that stolen vehicle receives a late notice for a parking ticket.
– The disgruntled citizen whose vehicle was stolen decides to phone city hall to complain because the police cannot locate the owner’s vehicle, but “the city seems to have no problem locating the vehicle to issue a citation”.
The preceding scenario clearly reflects poorly on the city’s ability to maintain efficient, functional public services. So, not only does collaboration help to improve public safety for citizens and Parking Enforcement Officers, but in general government looks like it is well organized and effective. Now, imagine the opposite scenario where stealth alerts are enabled and a stolen vehicle alert is dispatched to police who promptly recover the stolen vehicle. In this instance everyone wins.
System interoperability – additional benefits
There are additional benefits to leveraging LPR since parking vehicles do not enforce the same roads as police; collaboration covers more territory. Police will typically monitor more highways, while parking enforcement officers cover the downtown city core. Enhancing the parking enforcement process, leveraging LPR to enforce warrants, amber alerts and in general, vehicles of interest strengthens initiatives to maintain high public safety standards. Everyone benefits from this while significantly improving public safety by maximizing the use of city assets for better return on investment. Imagine the data sharing that could be automatically used to aid in policing initiatives.
It is to the benefit of all government entities to consider a strategic collaboration. License plate recognition benefits more than the public and parking enforcement officers, police agencies can also leverage this technology and others to great advantage. This is why is especially critical that public safety agencies are aware that such a technological shift toward enhanced enforcement (such as LPR) is occurring. Further, parking enforcement agencies should be aware that the data being captured using LPR could be very useful for public safety. City’s are increasingly being asked to do more with less; collaboration between parking and police agencies presents potential economies in operational costs and gains in efficiency that ought to be explored further. For years there has been interoperability discussions between police. Now, it is not just about public safety sharing crucial data; it is about cities, counties, and municipalities and the agencies within these branches of government all pitching in.