New app lets citizens report parking violations

By Sanam Yar

Winnipeg, Manitoba — July 11, 2013 — Parking scofflaws might soon find themselves in some trouble thanks to citizen action and a new smartphone app. Spot Squad provides citizens the power to report parking violations with the snap of a photo.

The app works by relying on people to take photos of parking violations with their phones, sending the location and photo through the app to parking authorities in the city.

As co-founder Chris Johnson explains, “It’s fairly straightforward…let’s say you are walking down a street and see a car parked illegally. You open the app, grab a picture, and the time, location, and license plate are noted…if [your submission] results in a ticket or tow, you receive part of the bounty.”

Participants can choose to either keep the finder’s fee for themselves, or donate it to a charity of their choice.

Addressing privacy concerns with the app, Johnson insists, “It’s basically like crime stoppers through an app…[taking a photo of the alleged offender’s car] doesn’t mean you know who they are. You’re not actually ticketing the person, you’re passing on offence notice to enforcement officials. As far as the privacy issue goes, it is all within public domain.”

This raises the question, won’t some people hesitate to expose their fellow drivers’ misdemeanours?

“I think it’s the sort of thing that would be on everyone’s phone and no one admits to it,” responded Johnson.

He adds that some situations might provide less of a moral dilemma, noting, “If there was someone parked in a handicap spot, I would have zero problem reporting that…At the end of the day, there are bylaws for a reason. This app just helps enforce that.”

Of course, this system is reliant on an area’s parking authority’s involvement, as well as collaboration with the city’s private parking and lot operators. Johnson says he and his partners haven’t yet signed any agreements to give informants a percentage of ticket fines, but he adds that they are forming partnerships with various city operators and are in talks with private parking lot operators.

“We are working on a pilot to go through the motions and get the kinks worked out. People can sign up for an advance beta version for when [the app] goes live…the pilot is a full working system with one partner set up in a specific location, where if you report an offence [successfully], you will have revenue,” says Johnson.

The pilot will provide evidence that the app has a place in real world applications and can be successful, which is needed in order to approach partnerships with big city parking authorities.

Johnson remains hopeful, stating, “We have had a lot of great feedback since sharing the app with people, and we are very open to hearing people’s ideas…lots of people are asking for expansion [of the app] for other situations- even beyond parking enforcement.”
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