Tuesday 31 December 2013

Parking enforcement officers' devices capture photo evidence of offences

By Toh Yong Chuan, The Sunday Times, 29 Dec 2013

Forget about protesting or appealing against that ticket for illegal parking.

You may not see parking enforcement officers carrying digital cameras, but the familiar hand-held device that they use to issue summonses can now also take photos of parking offences.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) started using these two-in-one devices last month. Its enforcement officers on motorcycles use them to snap photos of illegally parked vehicles before issuing summonses.

The gadget even uses Global Positioning System satellite coordinates to record the exact location where a summons is issued.

"This process allows us to capture photographic evidence of the offence to minimise possible dispute, especially in cases of appeals," an LTA spokesman told The Sunday Times. "With this feature, our traffic wardens will no longer need to carry an additional camera when they carry out their duties."

Besides the LTA, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is also using a similar device to nab motorists in carparks.

"If a patrolling officer observes that a motorist has displayed insufficient parking coupons in his vehicle, photos of the vehicle licence plate and any coupons that have been displayed can be taken," said a URA spokesman.

The URA started using the new device at public carparks earlier this year.

It is not known how much these devices cost or where and when they are being used, as both the LTA and the URA have always been tight-lipped about the locations and timing of enforcement checks.

And while not all parking and traffic wardens were believed to have carried digital cameras previously, now all URA and LTA parking enforcement officers have the new device.

The Sunday Times observed how the device was used when it trailed a URA carpark warden from a distance in Serangoon Gardens last Friday.

When she spotted cars without parking coupons or those with expired ones, she first snapped a picture of the car's registration plate and the parking space's number, then took a close-up shot of the dashboard before issuing the summons. The whole process took under three minutes.

Motorists' views on the new device were divided.

Piano technician Bernard Moey, 44, said it will not make a difference to law-abiding motorists. "But the real problem is the lack of parking space at some places. If there is adequate parking, I am sure most will not park illegally."

Mr Alvin Tan, 47, a senior vice-president at a Singapore Exchange-listed company, said the issue is not about using new devices, but the Government's outsourcing of such enforcement checks.

"The well-trained traffic policemen will sometimes just wave you away when they see illegally parked cars, but the outsourced wardens follow standard operating procedures and are very rigid. This inflexibility irritates drivers," said Mr Tan.

For now, motorists using Housing Board carparks will get some breathing space.

A spokesman said the HDB plans to "roll out the two-in-one electronic hand-held terminal device in early 2015".

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