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License plate scanning technology replaces physical parking passes

The Miami University Police Department (MUPD) has fully implemented a new parking pass system on campus, replacing physical passes with a license plate scanning technology.

Under this new system, called License Plate Recognition, a vehicle's license plate is registered if the license plate is in MUPD's system. Essentially, a vehicle's license plate is now considered its parking pass.

"Anybody who is parking on campus has to make sure that they are displaying their permission to park - their license plate," MUPD captain Benjamin Spilman said. "Now, I understand that some states do not issue a front license plate, but that doesn't change our requirement."

MUPD has issued warnings, as well as tickets, to owners of vehicles that don't show their license plate - whether it is obstructed altogether or the car is parked in a way so its license plate isn't visible.

But, police are considering alternatives to this issue.

"I like registering online, but I feel like they should have kept the stickers because it sometimes stresses me out by not having one since I was used to having one last year," sophomore Abby Fox said. "I really didn't appreciate the lack of that communication about it, too."

Fox found out about the new system through word-of-mouth from her friends who had already registered their vehicles.

The recognition system uses GPS satellites, high resolution cameras, optical character recognition technology and a parking management database to help MUPD efficiently enforce the university's parking regulations.

Police use MUPD-issued vehicles - not police cars - to scan a license plate, the scanner receives information from GPS satellites about the car's location and that information is saved with photos taken of the vehicle and license plate.

Afterward, that information is cross-checked with MUPD's parking database to see if the license plate is registered with the university.

When an image is captured, the optical camera recognition technology decodes the license plate numbers and letters into machine-readable characters. The text of the license plate, GPS, date, time and location information are all sent to the parking system. It immediately gives a response to determine whether or not the vehicle is properly registered and parked where it is supposed to be.

"So [this system] makes us a whole lot more efficient at maintaining the parking resources on campus," Spilman said. "So, no longer are we having to walk around campus and look on the dashboard and compare that to the time, day and location. This is now all done electronically."

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A parking technician inside the vehicle sees a context image, a license plate image, indication of any prior violations and whether the vehicle has a permit to be parked where it is. From there, an automatic ticket will be issued by the technician.

The violation gets printed inside the MUPD-issued vehicle and is left with the vehicle that receives a violation; an emailed copy is sent to the owner of the vehicle along with instructions about how to appeal or pay for the violation. This email goes out within 15 minutes of getting the written citation.

"[This] is a big improvement over the previous systems where we had to rely on synchronizing the handheld equipment that the parking enforcement staff was using," Spilman said. "It was a laborious process, and now we can just drive around."

Spilman knows there are not enough parking spaces for every car on campus, but this new enforcement system is designed to regulate parking and make sure there are spaces available for the people who need them, when they need them.