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Canberra parking inspectors ditch the chalk in number plate recognition trial

Parking inspectors swaggering through Canberra car parks, marking tyres with chalk could soon be a much rarer sight.

Inspectors this week have begun a trial of number plate recognition cameras to police timed parking spaces, a committee at the ACT assembly heard on Tuesday.

"Rather than walking the streets, marking the tyres we'll actually be able to drive past the cars, pick them up and go back two hours later, find the same cars in the same place so we'll have a much greater range of coverage," Craig Simmons, the director of transport regulation at Access Canberra, said.

"This is not so much about fining people but sending a message that the frequency with which we could infringe you is sufficient to make it cheaper to park and cheaper to pay for parking or to find another alternative form of transport."

Licence plate recognition camera systems are currently used in a number of other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally, an Access Canberra spokeswoman said. 

A camera is mounted in a car which is then slowly driven past parked cars. The camera takes an infrared and a standard photo of the licence plate as it passes by.

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The images will then be reviewed to determine whether the car is sticking to parking requirements.

"During the trial period infringements will not be issued. The initial trial period is to educate the community about the technology and how it operates. Warnings to drivers will be provided as part of an educative approach," she said.

"This technology is generally referred to as 'electronic chalking' and will save the manual marking of tyres by inspectors. However, will still be many areas not suitable for vehicle based enforcement and foot patrol inspectors will still undertake this work including chalking."

News of the trial came in response to questions from Greens politician Caroline Le Couteur and Liberal Mark Parton over city-wide parking dramas.

Mr Simmons acknowledged the way verge parking was policed in southern Canberra was frustrating to some residents.

He said parking officers responded to complaints about cars parked in residential areas on a daily basis and conducted fixed patrols as well.

"In some of the older areas there is a very low level of tolerance for parking on verges even though the parking on verges prevents no danger with respect to line of sight, no danger for pedestrians and after consultation with our colleagues in Transport Canberra and City Services, no danger to the street trees either," Mr Simmons said.

"In some streets if we were to remove people from verges the parking on the street would make it impossible for service and emergency service  vehicles to actually make their way through so that would actually increase the potential level of harm rather than decreasing it. 

"In those circumstances we would choose not to exercise infringement notices."