Automation offers an alternative to hiring private firms Police are considering introducing a fully automated method for monitoring illegal parking, a senior superintendent said yesterday. Automation was among options currently being studied in an attempt to save manpower wasted in issuing tickets, said Senior Superintendent Jacob Cheung Tak-keung, of the Police Public Relations Branch. 'Now, with the Octopus card, some information is available for retrieval. We're still exploring the possibility of substituting handwritten tickets,' Mr Cheung said. 'The machine would record when you park your car,' he added, without elaborating. Mr Cheung said a total of three options had been proposed by the efficiency unit of the Chief Secretary's Office, which conducted a four-month study on behalf of the police force. The alternatives were contracting out the issuing of tickets for all breaches of traffic laws, or only for parking violations. Police earlier said the study was aimed at improving cost-efficiency in enforcing parking laws. 'The manpower saved will be diverted to other traffic-related law enforcement duties or other duties,' Mr Cheung said. Legislative Council transport panel chairman Lau Kong-wah urged the police to consider using auxiliary personnel to issue parking tickets. He warned that hiring private companies to carry out law-enforcement duties may result in substandard services and a lack of flexibility. 'Police do not always issue parking tickets, Sometimes at nighttime, they exercise their discretionary power,' he said. Mr Lau criticised a decision to reduce the auxiliary police force a few years ago. 'I have always been against cutting back on auxiliary police manpower,' he said. In 2003, the number of parking-meter offences fell to 99,377, from 104,176 in 2002. In the first 11 months of last year, there were 92,251 such offences. As well as police officers, there are 284 traffic wardens who are authorised to issue parking tickets. Andrew Windebank, of the Automobile Association, has urged police to ensure standards of conduct are maintained in the event private companies are hired to enforce parking laws. Mr Windebank said he feared private companies would engage in illegal activities, as had been the case in Britain, where dishonest contractors placed wheel clamps on legally parked vehicles. Drivers were often unable to prove they had not been illegally parked and paid fines to secure the return of their cars, allowing the companies to boost their earnings through malpractice.