Newton Goes High Tech For Parking Enforcement

As Newton Parking Enforcement Officer Angela Foley seeks out hourly parking scofflaws, she tracks license plates the old fashioned way -- in a spiral notebook.
Chief Matt Cummings explained that an officer writes down the plate numbers of all the cars parked in a posted hourly parking zone, then checks back.

"They would list all these cars and then circle the ones who have overstayed their welcome," he said.

Newton's parking police are about get a new weapon in the war on freeloaders -- license plate readers.

They use cameras and computers to scan and run tags from a passing cruiser.

Somerville police have used them for the past 18 months, but Chief Michael Cabral said only for more serious matters.

"Suspended licenses; suspended registration; if there are warrants on the owner; if the owner's a missing person; if the owner's a level 3 sex offender; also if vehicle is on our boot list for parking tickets.  That will come up," said Cabral.

Newton officials said the new system will allow officers to cover more ground, and make more frequent checks of side streets that don't have parking meters, but do have one or two-hour parking limits.

Asked why he is concerned about this kind of scofflaw, Cummings said,  "A lot of those people park in those spots and go to work in Boston (on the Green Line) for the day and pretty soon the whole neighborhood fills up."

Newton Mayor Setti Warren said the license plate readers are part of a larger effort to modernize the police department.

And he says they are expected to add to the $1.8 million in parking fines the city already brings in every year.

"Obviously it will increase the opportunity for revenue at the same time," he said.  "We think it could almost double it."

The units cost about $22,000 each. Newton has ordered three. After 18 months in Somerville, two units have brought in almost $100,000 in fines.
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