Parking enforcement evolves | News, Sports, Jobs – Fort Dodge Messenger

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Oct 5, 2022
– Messenger photo by Bill Shea This is one of two infrared license plate readers mounted on the roof of the Fort Dodge parking enforcement vehicle. They are a key element in a new effort to enforce parking rules downtown. The images captured by the infrared license plate readers and two conventional cameras mounted on the back corners of the vehicle will provide evidence that a parking violation did or did not occur.
A white Jeep with city of Fort Dodge markings and some odd-looking gizmos on the roof will be making regular loops through downtown soon.
Those items on the roof, perched in front of a light bar, are infrared license plate readers. Combined with more conventional cameras mounted on the vehicle’s back corners, the devices are key tools in a new method of enforcing the two-hour time limit for on-street parking.
The license plate readers, and cameras will provide images that will show if an overtime parking violation did or did not occur.
This system represents the latest in a parking enforcement evolution that began decades ago with chalking the tires of cars parked on downtown streets.
“It’s really going to help move things along and get more spaces open for businesses downtown,” said Benjamin Westergaard, the Police Department’s commnunity service officer.
– Messenger photo by Bill Shea
A man contemplates a work of art by Mary Muller in the Blanden Memorial Art Museum. – Messenger photo by Bill Shea This Jeep Renegade will be used by Benjamin Westergaard, the Fort Dodge Police Department’s community service officer, to enforce parking rules downtown. It is equipped with rooftop mounted infrared license plate readers and cameras.
Parking enforcement is one of his responsibilities.
“I’m not out to get anyone,” he said. “This is simply to keep things going and keep business flowing downtown.”
Westergaard said he will be driving the Jeep Renegade through downtown while the license plate readers and cameras record images of the vehicles parked along the roads. He said the images produced by the conventional cameras will show the wheels of the vehicles so that the position of the valve stem on a tire can be seen.
When he drives back through the area two hours later, the devices will be working again and a computer program will alert him to vehicles that were photographed previously. Westergaard will compare the images. If the same licnese plate is indeed recorded, he will look at the photos of the valve stem to see if it is in the same place, a sign that the vehicle has not moved since it was last photographed.
“This allows me to look at an overall picture,” he said.
The new system will also save time. Since July, Westergaard has been doing downtown parking enforcement on foot. He has been walking and using a program on his phone called ichalking to check vehicles.
The name ichalking is a reference to the days when parking enforcement officers used to mark tires with a piece of chalk, then come back two hours later and see if the vehicle with that chalk line was still there.
In 2011, parking meters were returned to some downtown streets. The meters were removed last year and the two-hour time limit for on-street parking was put in place last fall.
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