Waterloo cracks down on delinquent parkers with new camera-equipped patrol car

Delinquent parkers beware: It's going to get a lot harder to dodge a parking ticket if you overstay your welcome in Waterloo's free parking zones.

Photos and data of compliant vehicles will be purged after 24 hours

A parking ticket tucked under the wiper blade of a vehicle in Waterloo. In March, a new license plate recognition vehicle will catch delinquent parkers who have overstayed the time limits of city street parking and surface lots. (City of Waterloo)

Delinquent parkers beware: it's going to get a lot harder to dodge a parking ticket if you overstay your welcome in Waterloo's free parking zones. 

A new license plate recognition vehicle will begin patrolling the streets in March.

"The vehicle will patrol higher density areas such as uptown Waterloo and Northdale where parking is in high demand," the city explained in a release.

"The vehicle will use specialized cameras to scan licence plates, capture the GPS coordinates of the vehicle and capture a before and after image of the vehicle's wheels."

It's an initiative the city has been working on since 2011, said Chris Mulhern, Waterloo's manager of compliance and standards. 

"You know, being a smarter city... we want to engage smarter thinking and get out of the 18th century, chalking vehicles," said Mulhern. "It marks the plate, it marks the location and it can tell us a lot more information than simple chalking would be able to tell us"

More tickets, more available parking

The city says its license plate recognition vehicle will ticket more accurately and efficiently. But Mulhern said it will also keep people from monopolizing the city's free parking spaces.

"We're one of the fewer municipalities that has an abundance of free parking and that in itself has to be controlled in a certain way to ensure there's an overflow of parking," he said.

"If there's not constant movement then that free parking becomes a burden." 

Privacy concerns slows down roll-out

Mulhern says part of why it took five years to get the program off the ground was the city's dedication to ensuring all possible privacy concerns had been addressed. 

He said the city worked with the privacy commissioner to make sure the system was set up correctly and that data would be stored securely and for no longer than necessary. 

For example, only the data connected to vehicles that are in violation of the parking bylaw will be stored for more than 24 hours. Photos and locations of all other cars will be deleted. 

"There's no benefit to us keeping it, so though the company, through the vendor we've requested that information is gone, it's dumped."

Labouring over those kinds of details seems to have paid off.

When contacted by the CBC, Ontario Civil Liberties Association executive director Joseph Hickey said it appeared the city had addressed privacy concerns, and "therefore this is a minor issue for us."

The city plans to hold an open house Thursday at RIM Park from 12 to 8 p.m. for the public to see the new parking control system and ask questions.

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