If you drive on to the Texas Tech campus, parking officials will start to keep a record of your car's license plate.
Parking tags are history. Instead a camera will snap a picture of your car's tags. The License Plate Recognition system is relatively new to the university. The university has the ability to hold the data for up to one year. The technology was originally designed for security at military bases, but with a few changes programmers at Texas Tech have adapted the program for parking enforcement.
Michael Warren used to walk the parking lots looking for violators five years ago. Now he rides around and with the help of the LPR system he also listens for violations. What used to take supervisors hours, now takes minutes. "The technology has changed quite a bit. We can check hundreds if not thousands now," explained Warren.
He drives one of the two trucks that are mounted with cameras. The cameras are connected to the main server that stores all car profiles, including license plate information. When the cameras are activated, they can immediately detect if a car is parked in the wrong spot. The computer system makes two distinct sounds. One signals supervisors that the car is parked properly and another if you are violating the parking rules.
Last spring, the university eliminated parking tags and stickers for students who need a spot on campus. Instead, students electronically submitted their license plate information and paid for their e-permit.
"We are one of the first to go out and do license plate recognition. I know a lot of our peers are calling and watching to see how it goes," explained University Parking Services Director Eric Crouch. His team has worked tirelessly for almost three years to make this a reality. It costs on average $50,000 just to purchase the necessary materials to make and distribute hang tags. Crouch says that the investment of around $200,000 to make the LPR system happen will pay for itself in about four or five years.
The technology will also help law enforcement officers track down stolen or suspect vehicles. Crouch says the technology was used to find terror suspect Khalid Aldawsari back in February.
Texas Tech programmers perfected the military grade technology for parking control and have copyrighted the program.
The information that Warren collects in the lot immediately goes to the LPR security center on campus.
"The police department has the options to put in stolen or wanted vehicles directly into our system and it sends a covert alert back to them," said Stephen Lambert, IT Manager. The technology has tracked stolen vehicles on campus, but that's not its only purpose.
"We gain efficiency and consistency and drivers in the wrong spot are more likely to get a ticket," added Lambert.
"It will catch anyone without a permit and people who have too many citations," said Warren.
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