Smartphones to Assist Columbia Parking Enforcement Officers

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COLUMBIA - Both the Columbia and MU Police Departments joined the digital age Monday by implementing the use of smartphones to help improve efficiency and communication.

Nine smartphones have been leased to the city at $170 per phone. The Columbia Parking Utility will pick up the tab for the leased smartphones.

As a result, communication between Columbia Public Works, the Columbia Police Department and the city court system is expected to improve. As part of the upgrade, officers will have access to the city's tow list from the smartphones. Before the upgrade, officers had to call the police department to see which cars were on the tow list.

In addition to that, officers can now take pictures to verify parking violations. Officers not only have the improved technology, they also have a new website for ticket payments. Any ticket given July 1 or later will use the new site.

"They can take a picture of where the violation occurred at, a picture of the meter showing that it is expired, and a picture of the vehicle showing the license plate," Public Information Specialist Steven Sapp said. "It verifies that we are doing our job correctly, and of course in court should it be contested. It is a visual reference of what we saw."

Sapp said there is no need to worry about the safety of your license plate information, if a picture is taken at the time a parking enforcement worker issues a parking ticket.

"We certainly believe that in our due diligence with the contract that we have a system here that is very safe, very secure," Sapp said. "We are using cellular data right now compared to using WiFi data even though both can be equally secure. We are trying to air on the side of caution at this point."

"If it makes the system more efficient, I don't think it's an invasion of my privacy," Driver Dan Forsyth said. "I don't have a problem with it, that sounds like an efficient way of doing business."