THE District of West Vancouver is adopting some controversial technology to help enforce two-hour parking limits.
The district has equipped one of its bylaw enforcement vehicles with automated licence plate recognition cameras, which quickly capture licence plate information and cross-reference it, in real time, with a database. In this case, the district plans load the database with details on all of the district's parking locations as well as ICBC's list of stolen vehicles.
West Vancouver council approved the $50,000 surveillance system during 2012 budget discussions. The goal was to increase turnover for parking in busy commercial areas and save money in enforcement costs.
"We can do the entire district in two hours," said Jessica Delaney, the district's director of communications. "From a staff perspective, it's going to create lot of efficiency."
So much efficiency, in fact, the district will be able to lay off one bylaw enforcement officer.
"There is a real savings in staffing costs, because we won't have to have as many staff doing the job. It's a more efficient deployment of bylaw resources. It means that if we get complaints about dogs on the seawall or noise or heavy vehicles. . . . It really makes it so (bylaw officers) have a lot more time in their shifts do service calls."
In the past, drivers could avoid being ticketed for staying beyond the two-hour limit by simply erasing chalk lines from their tires or moving their vehicles slightly forward, said Delaney.
"That's just not going to work anymore," she said. But ALPR has become a contentious issue for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and the province announced in July that the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner would conduct a study into police use of it after receiving numerous complaints.
As the RCMP and various municipal forces adopt the technology, they are constructing a virtual surveillance network that tracks the guilty and innocent alike without ever having the process vetted, said David Eby, executive director of the BCCLA.
There is also great temptation for it to be misused, Eby added, noting that the BCCLA has documented police using the cameras to track environmental activists, anti-Olympic protestors, and even guests entering an electronic music festival.
According to Delaney's press release, West Vancouver will "only store data as evidence from vehicles with tickets issued" and "all other data will be deleted."
That allays some of the BCCLA's concerns, said Micheal Vonn, a policy analyst with the association, but there are some big lingering questions, including how long the ALPR data will be kept for, who will have access to it, whether the district did a privacy impact assessment with the privacy commissioner, what policies the district has for ALPR, if any.
By press time Thursday, Delaney was still gathering that information.