New police parking enforcement system to cut costs

The new parking enforcement officer has a new tool in her toolkit, and it makes clerical work much easier.

Sarah Lewis and Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper presented the city’s new parking enforcement tablet to the Marshalltown City Council Monday night, presenting it as an example of interdepartmental collaboration.

Lewis takes the tablet with her when she is out checking for vehicles violating parking laws. The device is small, so Lewis can carry it on her belt. It performs a variety of functions. Not only can she use it to write tickets, but she can also take photos as evidence of a violation and even print parking tickets right from the device.

And the best part is the information – from the VIN to the car’s color, make and model – is automatically downloaded onto the city’s server.

Writing tickets by hand is time consuming from the data entry end, Tupper said.

“You are kind of doing the work two, sometimes three times for one ticket,” he said. “It saved us some staff time.”

Tupper said the tablet has only been in use for a few weeks, but is already reaping benefits. The MPD began looking into the technology more than a year ago, but was unable to make use of it once its records clerk and parking enforcement officer quit. When Lewis joined the staff, the device had already been ordered and was ready for use.

The interface is easy to navigate, Tupper said. Lewis learned the system quickly.

“We had to have something that was easy to use in the field,” Tupper said.

The project is a good example of different city departments working together, Tupper said. Employees from the MPD and the finance department helped make the switch possible.

The city clerk, Shari Coughenour, wrote the software program for the tablet. She said her daughter, who is in her 20s, tested the program at home.

“I figured if it was intuitive enough to use on a non-government techie, it would pass muster,” she said. “It is still new, so I am reserving any ‘yippees.'”

Coughenour said she wrote the program so it benefits the end user, and since it uses software to which the city already has licensing rights, there was no cost for the programming. The hardware cost the city $4,200. The device has helped streamline the entry of parking tickets and has made her job easier, she added.

Tupper said officers outside the downtown area that Lewis enforces still write tickets manually.