Special vans hunting for Seattle’s ‘parking scofflaws’

Jul 5, 2011

On Tuesday Starting today, two specially equipped Seattle police vans had started scanning up to 20,000 license plates per day, hunting for vehicles with four or more parking tickets in order to give them the “boot.”

Topping the city’s most-wanted list has to be the vehicle with 263 violations associated with it amounting to more than $25,000 owed, according to a list of citations in the City of Seattle’s “parking scofflaw business plan.”

Second on the most-wanted list must be the two cars with 184 tickets each. Nearly 100 cars have been ticketed 50 times or more, according to the city. Officials say more than 20,000 cars are considered eligible for the boot, a device attached to a vehicle wheel making it unusable.

Those special vans, each with two parking enforcement officers (one drives and one monitors the equipment), are equipped with "license plate recognition" (LPR) technology that reads plates of vehicles parked on city streets and compares them against a database of plates in scofflaw status.

When the system finds a match, it alerts the operating officer, the city wrote on its website dedicated to the program. The officers will then place a boot on the vehicle after verifying its scofflaw status. The system will be checking for stolen vehicles at the same time it is looking for scofflaw vehicles.

Seattle started the “boot” or parking scofflaw program to recoup as much of the nearly $30 million in unpaid tickets and collection agency fines that it can. City officials report they should net nearly $3 million over the next couple of years.

The city hopes the threat alone will bring in most scofflaws, and 2,100 people have already stepped up to pay their fines in advance of the law taking effect this morning. The city has contracted with the boot vender Paylock for the devices, which can only be removed once the car owner has paid up and been given a code to punch into the devices keypad.

Here’s a video from Paylock’s website: