How Hong Kong Police can enter the digital age on parking tickets
I recently watched three policemen and two traffic wardens conduct a “blitz” enforcement against illegal parking along a 50-metre stretch of road in the middle of town. It took them over an hour to book about 10 vehicles, because only one policeman was writing out the fixed penalty tickets while the other four officers stood by watching.
We live in “Asia’s World City” and we are supposed to be at the forefront of information technology. We even have a Secretary for Innovation and Technology. Yet our police force still uses stone-age methods to issue parking tickets.
Why should our policemen and traffic wardens have to spend five or 10 minutes to write out a ticket by hand, to be presumably re-entered by hand into a police or Transport Department computer, so it can be matched up with the fine when eventually paid or, if not, turned into a court summons? The back-office administration work involved, not to mention the government accounting work (because all fines are paid into the Treasury) must cost the taxpayer far more than the amount of the fine.
How simple it would be just to take a photograph of the vehicle in situ with a GPS-enabled digital camera and download the SIM card at the end of the day. With digital character recognition technology, the vehicle’s number plate immediately identifies the owner, and the GPS coordinates eliminate all doubt about the date, time and location. The computer issues the notification automatically by registered post, and if it is really essential in law to leave a notification on the vehicle, a standard leaflet can be left under the windscreen wiper saying that a fixed penalty ticket will be sent by post to the owner's registered address.
It would be even faster and more efficient if a QR code was embedded into the vehicle window license card and the owner’s data was immediately transmitted by Wi-fi to the police or Transport Department computer.
In this way, a single traffic warden or policeman could instantly issue two to three tickets per minute just by walking down a row of illegally parked vehicles with his camera and with zero chance of making a mistake which could be contested in court, nor with the need for one or two accompanying fellow officers as witnesses.
A fixed penalty ticket for speeding is issued on the basis of a photograph from a radar camera. So how much easier should it be to use a photograph for a stationary vehicle which is illegally parked or illegally waiting on double yellow lines?
Dr P.D. Bentley, Mid-Levels