Central Israeli City Rolls Out High-tech Parking Patrol

Cruiser cameras do everything but buy the doughnuts.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

Parking enforcement officers have heard it all before. Drivers often spot them from a distance and rush to move their cars before a ticket can be issued. “I only stopped for a second,” “I didn’t notice,” “I thought it was allowed,” the slower ones try to argue. Sometimes it escalates to a verbal confrontation, curses or even threats.

But at least in the central Israeli city of Rishon Letzion, the rules are about to change. Instead of walking her turf, the municipal officer will tour it in comfort, in a gadget-filled cruiser. Instead of parking tickets tucked underneath the front windshield wiper, drivers will receive them in the mail, and they’ll include pictures documenting the violation as well as a link to a website with the pictures. In many cases, drivers won’t know they’ve been issued a citation until it arrives in the mail, even if they were in the car when it happened.

The new patrol car has three cameras: one facing ahead, one facing backward and one to the right. All are on throughout the shift, constantly relaying images and audio to a monitor on the dashboard.

When an enforcement officer sees a car where it shouldn’t be, even from dozens of meters away, in nearly any direction, she can point to it on her monitor. The cameras will record the violation from different angles. The feeds can be replayed later, as well, for documentation of the violation after the fact.

The cameras read the license plate and the system scans in the numbers, giving the officer the details of the car and its owner almost instantly. It takes only a few seconds to issue a ticket, and it can be done while the cruiser is in motion. The officer doesn’t even have to leave the patrol car.

The system has been installed in one municipal patrol car in Rishon Letzion. If the test is successful, the city plans to buy more systems.

On Sunday the car was taken around the city center for a dry run. Just five minutes was enough to find thousands of shekels’ worth of parking fines. “Two at a bus stop there, one on the sidewalk there, soon a car will double-park over there,” enforcement officer Adi Revach said, pointing out illegally parked cars near city hall.

For now, officers are just learning the new system, but on Tuesday it is slated to go live, with genuine citations. The city promises to mail the tickets within six days of the violation.

While the revenue-raising potential of the new system cannot be denied, city officials insist that isn’t why it’s being introduced.

“We’re going to fight bullying on the streets” using the system, Deputy Mayor Raz Kinstlich says, adding that the system will not attend to minor parking violations, such as expired cards in a permitted (blue and white curb) parking zone. It will only be used to enforce serious violations that pose a genuine danger.

“We aren’t going to turn it into a press for printing money out of parking tickets,” the head of the city’s parking division Yochi Ilan, said. In addition, officials said, it will only be used on main streets.

In 2013 parking enforcement officers in Rishon issued a total of 167,000 parking tickets, 40 percent of them for serious offenses such as parking in bus and taxi stops or in handicapped paces for the disabled, blocking crosswalks and parking in an intersection or on a sidewalk. “It will not replace me, my judgment still exists,” Revach said. But she is clearly pleased with the innovation: “It has a deterrent effect,” she said.

Rishon Letzion's cruiser-mounted traffic cameras catch parking scofflaws and issue tickets almost automatically.Credit: David Bachar