NBPA Could Switch to License Plate Reader Enforcement This Year

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Hub City residents could see all of the city's parking enforcement vehicles fully-equipped with license plate readers (LPR) by the end of 2016, according to the agency that has been experimenting with the technology. 

The New Brunswick Parking Authority (NBPA) tested license plate readers for parking enforcement in a three-month pilot program which ended on December 31.

In the program, the city used LPR technology to check vehicles parked on certain streets in the city that require a permit to park there. 

"It was fairly successful," NBPA Executive Director Mitch Karon said at the January 27 parking authority meeting.

"It was a real primitive system, but we found that the pick-up rate of the license plates is very good, over 92%."

Karon said the next step was to hold a public bidding process, and moving forward on another required component in his vision: offering online parking permit registration.

"I'll be working on getting competitive contracting in the next 45 days," Mitch Karon added at the meeting, "I'm hoping to have it done within the next year or so."

Karon has previously stated that the parking authority intends to also use license plate readers as part of a paperless permit system where the person's license plate acts as the permit. 

"I see a good savings as far as not having to pay for paper permits," said Karon.

License plate readers work employing cameras and optical character recognition (OCR) technology, allowing the camera to pick up the letters and numbers on the license plate.  The system then checks the plates against the authority's database of permitted vehicles.

Once the vehicle-mounted LPR is turned on, the cameras are active and automatically scan license plates as the vehicle drives past parked cars.

Information that the LPR collects in real time, specifically the license plates observed and the dates, times and locations at which the plates were observed, is held in an onboard digital notebook, or "tablet." 

As we reported, LPR technology was used by local police in 2014 to recover a vehicle that had been reported stolen.

Karon assured that the LPR system would be used exclusively for enforcement of the on-street parking permit system, and that it would not be used to investigate criminal violations.

"It's a contained system," Karon told New Brunswick Today back in October, "It's not even connected [to police]."

The only thing the LPR system will check will be if a plate is in the NBPA's database containing the list of license plates authorized for permit parking, he said.

Karon added that if New Brunswick police persisted in getting access to records, either through asking the NBPA directly or by obtaining a warrant, that he would seek legal counsel.

Since the use of the license plate reader is still in its "infant stage," a more definitive set of policies and procedures would need to be developed in the event of police request of data, according to Karon.

Reporter at New Brunswick Today

Award-winning, multimedia journalist with experience in digital first and print-media. Daniel has covered local, state and regional issues, and utilized photography, social media and has written in-depth articles to produce high-quality work.