Schools and councils across the country are turning to CCTV to enforce parking restrictions during the school run – and a new low-cost camera system is set to make this even easier in the coming months.
According to reports in the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, the new surveillance system costs as little as £16,000, and is able to record and recognise the number plates of illegally parked cars outside schools.
The recorded footage is then sent to the local council, including evidence of the parking restriction. The council can then issue the owner of the car with a fine through the post – which could be as much as £120.
The new cameras are the work of traffic management specialists Videalert, which says it was approached to develop the new system by a council concerned about pupil safety.
According to the Daily Mail, insurance industry figures suggest over 1,000 children are injured on the roads around UK schools – every month.
Videalert has confirmed five councils in London and two outside London are already testing the new devices, said to be more effective both in terms of enforcement and cost than the camera cars that are currently used in some areas.
While no one can disagree that child safety is paramount, some will suggest this is just another way for local authorities to make money out of motorists.
In fact, Videalert proudly boasts on its own website that its technology: “has a higher capture rate than ANPR only systems, such that it will deliver the highest level of income from offences.”
Local Government Minister, Brandon Lewis, is on the motorist’s side here:
“The law is clear. Parking is not a tax or cash cow for local councils. The government wants to reign in over-zealous parking enforcement, including stopping the use of CCTV spy cameras for parking, so it focuses on supporting sensible drivers, not raising money.
“Public confidence is strengthened in CCTV if it is used to tackle serious crime, not raise money for council coffers by penalising parents dropping off kids on the school run.”
Indeed, the government recently announced a crackdown on parking cameras and so-called ‘spy cars’, and the Department for Transport’s own guidelines suggest such devices should only be employed where the use of traffic wardens is impractical.
However, with ‘lollipop rage’ – parents getting into aggravated disputes about school parking and similar issues – apparently on the increase (1,400 incidents recorded in 2008, versus 7,000 in 2011), councils may feel that remote parking enforcement via cameras is a much safer bet for everyone involved.
So it seems the better behaved we are on the school run, the less likely a widespread implantation of parking camera enforcement technology.
You have been warned…