License plate scanners coming to downtown San Marcos to help parking enforcement

San Marcos license plate recognition scanner on top of a parking enforcement vehicle. (City of San Marcos Photo)
San Marcos license plate recognition scanner on top of a parking enforcement vehicle. (City of San Marcos Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — An automated license plate recognition system will be put to work in downtown San Marcos sometime before March 1 to help parking enforcement officers, the city announced Monday.

Cedar Park, Texas-based NuPark will provide the cloud-based parking management system, which will be mounted on San Marcos police parking enforcement vehicles. The mobile license plate recognition takes two photos of vehicles, one a context photo of the car and its surroundings and another showing the license plate.

The system, which will record GPS coordinates and date and time, will notify an officer if a vehicle is parked in the same spot for more than the allowed time. The city said the resolution of the photos is not high enough to allow identification of people in a vehicle.

The city said owner or driver information will not be stored directly with the system record, and it will not scan for warrants. Data collected that does not lead to enforcement action or prosecution will only be retained for 180 days.

Local store owners say parking has been a problem downtown for more than 30 years. They believe the main issue is university students parking on the square then walking to class. They hope this system will open parking spots more often and bring in more customers.

“I hear a lot of them that are really frustrated about having to walk really far or just not being able to come in because they can’t find a parking spot. So, I think it will benefit us a lot,” said Paper Bear employee Madison Calhoun.

On-street parking throughout downtown is limited to two hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In 2016, the city issued 6,742 warnings and citations for infractions downtown, including things like parking in front of a mailbox or disabled space.

“In San Marcos, what we heard from our community outreach was a desire for enhanced enforcement of our existing on-street time restrictions to provide more available parking by encouraging turnover,” said Kevin Burke, the city’s economic development and downtown administrator.

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