While a real RoboCop is yet to roam our streets, law enforcement is one step closer with the introduction of “autoChalk”, the Santa Barbara Police Department’s new $60,000 electronic chalking system that will be used to identify parking violators and cite them accordingly.

AutoChalk finds parking offenders with a “photographic, laser, and GPS” system to acquire photographic proof of parking violations. This system has been installed in one of the city’s 10 parking enforcement vehicles and will be able to identify vehicles that have been parked in a certain spot for too long. GPS, along with photographs, can detect the color and length of a car, and how long a car has been parked in a certain spot. AutoChalk technology can also read license plates, which allows it to identify repeated offenders and stolen vehicles through the California Law Enforcement Terminal System (CLETS). While the autoChalk can tattle on a vehicle in violation, it still does not have the technology to issue a citation itself.

AutoChalk was made to perform effectively even in the worst weather conditions, a time when the actual chalk often washes off offending car tires. Just like the mail isn’t deterred by “rain, sleet, or snow,” autoChalk will help deliver citations to violators just as efficiently as they receive their mail. This new technology is also meant to reduce the “stress injuries” that can come with old-fashioned tire-marking. AutoChalk allows parking enforcement officers “to electronically identify violators from the safety of their vehicle.”

In 2007, SBPD contacted vendors of this and other similar products in order to solve this “stress injuries” problem. Tannery Creek Systems Inc. of Vaughan, Ontario, Canada, beat out the competition and provided SBPD with autoChalk. Part of the system’s costs were covered by “auto theft grant funds” and “salary saving from unfilled positions in the Parking Enforcement Unit.” Unfortunately, autoChalk is not in use yet, as SBPD is still conducting research. “We’re still in the testing stages of the program,” explained parking enforcement’s Sergeant Juanita Smith.

Because research is still being conducted, traditional tire-marking methods will still be in use. Parking has truly become a prized commodity, so parking violators beware – autoChalk isn’t your childhood sidewalk chalk.


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