Correction: A previous version of this article said that funds for the license plate readers came from Measure B funds; however, the correct title of the measure is Measure V, not Measure B.
Gone are the tedious days where a parking enforcement officer or meter maid has to bend over to chalk a tire of a car that has been parked for too long. Updating their method to fit current technology and practices, the Healdsburg Police Department will soon start using automated license plate readers (ALPR) in their parking enforcement department to monitor cars parked in any of the timed spots around town.
According to the department, there will be four cameras, two mounted on the roof of the car and two mounted on the rear fenders. Only the one parking enforcement car will be equipped with the cameras.
“What the system does is as it drives by the cameras capture the license plate and use GPS to plot where the car is. The cameras also take a look at how the tires are positioned so that way when it drives back along it can compare the images to see if the car has moved,” says Healdsburg Police Lt. Matt Jenkins.
The easy, automated system can also use its GPS to monitor the different timed traffic zones downtown and can flag an officer if a car is in violation of a time zone.
“Anything in excess of that time zone, it flags,” Jenkins said, so even if you are just 10 minutes over the limit, don’t think you can get out of a ticket.
The readers were acquired through Measure V funds with support and direction from city council. Healdsburg Chief of Police, Kevin Burke, said he is glad the system can replace the old school method of chalking tires.
“Chalking tires is really on its way out. It can be easily rubbed off and the constant motion of getting out and bending over to chalk a tire can cause motion injuries—we’ve had motion injuries with chalking so having this system is better for injury prevention,” Burke said.
Other benefits of implementing the system include time efficiency and accuracy. For instance, during parking ticket appeal sessions if there is a “he said, she said” back and forth occurring between an officer and a violator, then the GPS can be easily used to determine if the person was indeed in violation of the time zone.
“Those can be difficult to rule on, but with photographs and time stamps, there will be no doubt if a person is or isn’t in excess of a timed spot,” Burke said.
But what about privacy concerns? Burke and Jenkins said the only thing the system is programmed for is to capture a plate and use GPS to determine if it’s in violation.
While staff has already been trained, the department is still going through some testing phases to ensure the equipment is working properly. Jenkins said he expects the system to start being used in the next two weeks.
The ALPR’s implementation also come during a time when parking times for the sides of the street around the plaza may be changed from three hours to two when city council votes on the resolution before the end of this year.